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Packaging that "talks" to consumers not far away

Interactive packaging that's able to ‘talk' back to consumers could be less than a decade away, according to Packaging Technology’s website.

Dr Ross Lee, a researcher at the Packaging & Technology Integrated Solutions in Maryland, US, was quoted telling the Neutrons and Food Conference in Sydney, Australia, that the use of printable electronics in ‘smart' packaging was viable.

Other emerging nanotechnologies include sensors and batteries as well as new scanning technologies. The use of these and printable electronics could help consumers and reduce costs and wastage, Dr Lee told the conference. He said the research findings into a host of new smart packaging technologies are currently being examined with a view to further development.

Printable electronics refers to powered circuits emitting an electronic signal that can be printed cheaply onto packaging. Combined with the developments in smartphone technology, in particular the trend towards geo-location based software applications, this could enable products on the shelves being able to communicate with shoppers' devices. This, Dr Lee explained, would allow people to see the exact in-store location of the product they seek, or be told if an item is out of stock.

Other nanotech techniques currently planned include putting sensors into packaging which contain a dye that degrades in contact with food pathogens, alerting shoppers - through their devices - that the product has reached its use-by date. Another development is the inclusion in the packaging of an antimicrobial agent that could be triggered to help preserve food for longer. For more, go to Packaging Technology