The nanotechnology for the food packaging industry is expected to increase by 15% from 2023 to 2033 due to material science and technology developments. These insights are based on a recent report by Future Market Insights (FMI) on the industry.
The FMI report further details the history, various categories and latest developments in nanotechnology for the food packaging industry.
The last decade has observed exponential growth in the packaging and food sector in developed and developing countries.
Food is an edible substance that humans usually get from animals or plants and contains necessary nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, fats, and vitamins, to assist life, energy, and growth.
Food is a perishable commodity, so contamination and degradation of food can occur at any stage of the food chain. It can be chemical, physical or biological.
Infectious organisms in food can result in food poisoning, which can be fatal, particularly for children, pregnant women, and elderly persons. Hence, the food must be protected at all levels by using good quality packaging material which is safe, cost-effective and non-toxic.
Richard Feynman introduced the concept of nanotechnology in 1959, and Norio Taniguchi later coined the term in 1974. Nanotechnology comprises the fabrication, characterization, and manipulation of molecules of nano-range (1-100 nm).
Nanotechnology deals with nano-systems and nanomaterials.
Nanomaterials are defined as materials with some dimension on the nanoscale, and these are classified into three categories – nanofibres, nano-particles, and nano-plates.
Nanotechnology has multiple application areas, such as packaging, nano-electronics, biomedical, security sensors, paints, textiles, cosmetics, medical and healthcare, paper, construction, explosives and weapons, and lubricants.
“As such, in the last few decades, nanotechnology has had a great impact on food packaging industry. In the food industry, nanotechnology can be used to detect the presence of bacteria and microbes in packaging or to increase barrier properties,” says FMI.
“There are various nanomaterials available in the market including titanium nitride nano-particle, silver nano-particle and nano-zinc oxide, nano-clay and nano-titanium dioxide, which are presented as functional additives for the food packaging industry.”
Nanotechnology driven food packaging market has been divided into three categories.
The first is called active packaging. It is the use of nanomaterials, which is beneficial to interact directly with food to provide better protection to the product. Some nanomaterials such as nano-silver, nano-titanium dioxide, nano-copper oxide, carbon nanotubes and nano-magnesium oxide can provide antimicrobial properties. Active packaging is designed to stop the growth of microbes once the packaging is opened by the customer and rewrapped with an active portion of the package.
The second category is called improved packaging. In it, nano-particles are combined with a polymer chain to improve the humidity resistance of packaging, temperature, and gas barrier. Notably, the United States Food and Drug Administration has approved using nano-composite in contact with food.
The third and final category is called smart/intelligent packaging. This is designed for sensing microbial or biochemical changes in the food. For example, it can detect the development of pathogens in food. Some smart packaging has been developed to use as a tracing device for food safety. Currently, British Airways, MonoPrix supermarket, and Nestle use chemical sensors that can detect colour change quickly.
Nano-sensors used in food packaging include electronic noses, nano-particle-based sensors, nano-cantilevers, array biosensors, nano-test strips and nano-particle in solution.
“Packaging with nano-sensors is helpful to identify internal and external conditions of food, and containers throughout the supply chain. Also, in plastic packaging, nano-sensors can detect gases in food when it spoils and as a result packaging changes the colour to alert the consumer,” adds FMI in its report.
Films packed with silicate nano-particles can lessen the flow of oxygen into the pack and the leaking of moisture out of the pack. As a result, it protects the package from spoilage. Packaging waste associated with processed food can be reduced by nanotechnology and hence assist the preservation of fresh food.
Nanotechnology is used to produce smart packaging to extend the shelf life of a product, and the product can be transported further.
“The antimicrobials and nano-sensors are developed in smart packaging to detect spoilage of food and release nano antimicrobials to extend shelf life. It helps supermarkets and hypermarkets to keep food fresh for longer period,” notes FMI.