Food packaging has been long been a concern for scientists and the food-and-beverage industry alike. With growing consumer awareness and health concerns, these packages have become even more of a focus, particularly when present-day food habits include more refrigeration and preservation than ever before.

Technology to prevent spoilage and keeping air out has evolved tremendously since the 19th century when the idea first took root. The latest developments in the food-packaging industry show how far we have come since then, and how these innovative developments promise to uphold both product and human safety in unison.

A quick look at the latest solutions:

1. Active packaging

The concept of active packaging — using biotechnology (enzymes) along the container's wall to improve shelf life, taste, safety and quality has evolved quickly. While most food-packaging technology focuses on creating a barrier between a food product and its environment in order to ensure freshness and quality, active packaging does much more than that.

Researchers use materials that will also interact with the product, like removing bitterness from grape juice in a carton. Though at a nascent stage, immense strides have been made in the field of bioactive packaging that combines biotechnology and material science, to bring about innovative packaging ideas.

2. Sterile flexible packaging

In recent news, Coveris has emerged as a winner for displaying their sterile-packaging innovation in the flexible-packaging category. Their patented Intervoid Sterile bag has been heralded as the new-age solution for the global sampling industries.

This innovative sampling package offers a solution that includes ultrasterile, ultrasecure, composite-sampling systems. Now, medical, pharmaceutical testing, food and biotech industries can use their advanced packaging of sterile sampling solutions to enjoy tamper-proof, sterilized, leak-resistant sampling solutions.

These smarter, more efficient options in flexible and composite packaging will lead to with enhanced security and environmental impact for packaged goods.

3. Innovative leak-detection technology

The high-speed, nondestructive, inline unit of leak detection called MAPAX LD has been creating big waves. Instead of visual or manual water-based testing, this technology uses food-grade hydrogen gas to identify faulty MAP packaging.

Until now, the process to detect faulty and defective packaging has focused more on integrity rather than individual package evaluation. As a result, defective package detection often means the entire batch is rejected. This has led to more wastage and reduced shelf lives, increased production costs and even financial penalties for food packagers at times.

These defects typically include food caught in between packaging seals, poor sealing, tears or holes all of which may constitute risks to consumer safety. MAPAX, on the other hand, will analyze each and every item in a batch and offer a 100 percent validation rate.

4. Innovative vacuum-skin packaging system

The industry is also abuzz with Darfresh On Tray, an innovative vacuum-skin packaging system that offers scrap-free film lidding for fresh red meat trays. Unlike traditional systems, there is no lid stock scrap and better sealing power, with 40 percent less flexible film lidding material used.

Users will no longer have to deal with a "skeleton" or film matrix from which the lid stock is cut and also enjoy the easy-peel opening processes. The presence of a vacuum shuttle system helps cut the lid free from the roll and instantly transfer it to the vacuum chamber and tray-sealing head.

The machine runs about 40 percent faster than most conventional vacuum-tray sealing systems, saving both user time and offering better food protection.

5. Innovative pasteurizer

Louis Pasteur will always have an important place in history for his groundbreaking spoilage-prevention method. In the 20th century, development of high-tech sterilizers or pasteurizers to high temperature short time (HTST) technique, metal sheets and metal-coated PVC packaging have all led to more intense food-packaging processes.

Tetra Pak's latest innovative Tetra Pak Pasteurizer PF has further spurred this development to a new era of food packaging. This flexible and automated solution incorporates a high-end machine that can switch between hot- and ambient-filled products readily. This multiple-product capability will allow industry users to multitask and save processing time, as they can switch from one recipe to another easily.

It has been welcomed warmly by food applications industries preparing sauces, pastes, dips, dressings, soups, et al. The user-friendly technology will not only increase productivity, but also maintain consistent product quality leading to better food safety.