Any grocery shopping trip will show you how far-reaching packaging has come into food. These days, shoppers are greeted by amazing options that run from designs that will help in the food prep process to eco-friendly packaging for the environmentally conscious.
A lot of science and consideration goes into choosing the right container that, for a lot of manufacturers, packaging is more of a strategic decision than what it was in previous decades. Advances in food processing and packaging in North America means our food supply is among the safest in the world. Read on to learn some different variables that are considered when choosing the design of a food package.
1. Prevention of Product Leakage or Spillage
Packages must be tightly sealed and flexible enough to make sure the product’s integrity is kept at all stages of shipping and distribution, until opened by the customer. Certain products will required different types of packaging materials that will protect against manhandling, different temperatures, and other outside influences.
Many grocery items, perishables, and frozen foods all need different types of packaging to remain fresh. It is also important to choose the right packaging material that will prevent spills and leaks.
Leak detection equipment is used to ensure the closures, seams, and seals on packages have any pressure or leak issues that would affect the product.
2. Protection Against Contamination or Damage
Packaging offers protection against three major classes of external influences: physical, chemical, and biological. Physical protection stops mechanical damage and include cushioning against vibration and shock during shipping. These physical barriers are usually cardboard and have no need to be leak-proof; however, for items like shampoo, soda, and other goods, the substitution of plastic for glass has reduced these dangers caused by breaks.
Chemical protection works to minimize any compositional changes caused by environmental influences like moisture, light, or gas. Glass and metals offer a nearly perfect barrier to chemical and other outside influences, but there are very few packages that are just metal or glass. Closure devices like plastic caps have some degree of permeability.
Biological protection offers a barrier to microorganisms like spoiling agents and pathogens, rodents, insects, and other animals. Such barriers work to prevent the transmission of odour as well as keeping the internal environment of the package as it was originally intended.
Biological protection also works to maintain conditions to control ripening and aging. Air-tight seals on plastic packaging will maintain freshness as long as the food is kept to the right temperature.
Special packaging features have been designed due to wilful tampering with pharmaceutical and food products. These features work to reduce or entirely eliminate the risk of adulteration and tampering. Although any package can be breeched by someone with ill-intent, tamper-evident features cannot be easily replicated or replaced.
These might include special membranes, banding, special printing on bottle liners or composite cans, and breakaway closures. The benefits of tamper-evident packaging typically outweigh any drawbacks.
5. Materials Used in Food Packaging
The design and construction of food packaging plays a huge role in determining how long a food product will last on the shelf. The right choice of technologies and materials will keep optimal product quality and freshness during shipping and storage.
Traditional materials include metals (foils, tinplate, aluminum, and tin-free steel), glass, paper and paperboards, and plastics. Current food packages will often be made of several materials in order to take advantage of each material’s aesthetic and/or functional properties.