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The future of smart and connected packaging

By Jenny Stanley, Managing director

Appetite Creative


The Drum Network article

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April 26, 2021 | 7 min read

In this article, Appetite Creative explore how connected and smart packaging is growing and what the future holds.

connected and smart packaging

Smart packaging is now more relevant than ever. Due to the pandemic, technologies such as near-field communication (NFC) and QR-codes have been used more widely and supported by most iOS and Android devices. But first, one must ask what the difference is between smart and connected packaging.

’Smart packaging’ is a general term that describes packaging that uses technology to become more than just a container. Smart packaging generally uses technology that will provide product or brand information to consumers.

’Connected packaging’ finds applications in almost all retail product categories, including toys, cosmetics, games and clothing. In connected packaging applications, a QR code is printed on the product packaging, or an NFC label is present on the inside. Consumers can activate this code with a mobile device to receive informational content.

Connected and smart packaging have changed

The use of intelligent packaging is not new to the food industry. It is generally used to track products from their manufacturers to their points of sale. It comes in the form of barcodes, RFID tags, QR codes or electronic chips. Beyond the supply chain, it is also used to provide consumers with information about products or to access promotional campaigns for example.

In recent years, the field of intelligent packaging has become a proper industry, which may be linked to consumer's concerns about the origin of their food. According to a report by Accuray Research, the global smart packaging market is set to grow by 5.4% over the next decade to reach $52bn by 2025.

Thanks to smart packaging, customers can use their smartphone to find out exactly which farm their food comes from, but also the distance travelled and storage time. In addition to provenance information, a number of companies are looking to integrate practical information into their packaging, such as directions for use or recipe ideas. This connected packaging is a new channel of communication, and, therefore, advertising, between a brand and a consumer. Thanks to this means of communication, it is possible to offer competitions, games, advertisements for other products to consumers.

Intelligent packaging is also useful from an ecological point of view. Indeed, there is an impact on the environment: for example, it is possible to know if the expiry date is approaching and thus reduce food waste, it is also possible to transmit information on the method of recycling the packaging.

What’s the future of smart and connected packaging?

At Appetite Creative, we believe that smart and connected packaging will keep evolving and have a pretty interesting future.

Firstly, connected content is becoming more accurate and resourceful, especially in the food industry where it is now possible for a package to send a notification if the product is out of date. In the healthcare sector, smart packaging can now be used to remind patients to take their pill healthcare and remind them of expiry dates.

We foresee that the results connected packaging provides will become more customized and personalized. Thanks to data collection the information and experience contained in the package will be targeted to every specific customer. Every client will have an enhanced connected experience with the product they bought.

Also, RFID sensors will increasingly make their way into the market. It will allow the package to know about the current state of the product, which will be useful in the food industry especially. These sensors can be used to transmit information over very large distances. It can, for example, warn a farmer that these products have been exposed to bad weather conditions on their way to the point of sale and will therefore not be consumable.

Some more powerful AI and AR will be used to provide the results based on customer behaviour and need. Augmented reality is a technology that will transform the packaging into an interactive experience. These experiences can help brands to showcase their values, products and commitments. Augmented reality allows consumers to access this information through informative, fun and entertaining content. As an example, it can allow you to ’meet’ the company’s president or an employee. Combining storytelling and AR strengthens the link with the customer by creating certain proximity. In the future, we can imagine ever more precise and enriching AR content aimed at the consumer.

We could soon see packaging talking directly to consumers with on-pack digital chips linked to their smartphones. The customer won’t even have to look for a code or tag to scan, the product will send the information by itself to their smartphone, to inform them of the expiration date or how to recycle the product for example.

One of the most important things in the future of smart and connected packaging is that it provides a positive experience for the consumers, by providing them with access to transparent information. For brands, it provides them with a greater understanding of their customers and for the environment, it’s a great tool that can be used to reduce food waste and encourage recycling.

So, we could see that connected and intelligent packaging has an interesting history and a future! Whether from a commercial, advertising or environmental point of view, packaging still has a lot to offer. They provide the customer with a connected, informative and entertaining experience while ensuring brand transparency. The current health situation has led us all to spontaneously scan the QR codes found on restaurant tables and shop entrances... a gesture that we will surely keep in the post-Covid era. It is, therefore, the time to integrate intelligent and connected packaging into your brand strategy!

If you are interested, do not hesitate to contact Appetite Creative to discuss connected packaging projects for your company. If you wish, you can also check out our previous connected packaging projects such as Tetra Pak, Vodafone or Rani Juice.

You might also be interested in our upcoming free webinar looking at the ’Future of marketing in packaging’. On 27 April, two top-level executives from Tetra Pak will share exclusive insights and personal experiences from within the packaging industry in our webinar that we host together with Packaging Today. Sign up now here.

Jenny Stanley, managing director at Appetite Creative


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