A new industry report indicates the antimicrobial packaging market is slated to reach $10 billion by 2021. Several factors are driving this growth at an estimated CAGR of 5.54 percent. Chief among them are the growing consumer awareness about health, an increase in demand for fresh and organic produce, and the rising concern about food wastage.

How does antimicrobial packaging work? According to a study in Frontiers in Microbiology, it "effectively impregnates the antimicrobial into the food packaging film material and subsequently delivers it over the stipulated period of time to kill the pathogenic microorganisms affecting food products thereby increasing the shelf life."

Antimicrobial packaging solutions are used across industries like healthcare, food and beverage, consumer goods, personal care and agricultural products. They meet the demands for better and healthier packaging, help increase the shelf life of the commodity, maintain the quality of the products and offer utility flexibility as well. Other benefits like increased safety coupled with low cost, reduced counterfeiting and easy implementation are also fueling its growth.

While antimicrobial packaging is in high demand, quality packaging of all kinds has become very important. Demand for fresh food has resulted in retailers asking vendors to come up with "smart packaging" that will preserve the quality of food and improve the accountability to their customers. Smart packaging involves QR codes that help consumers go right into the farm-level information about a product, protect exported items from being tampered with, and vastly improve shelf life.

Smart packaging combines the traditional functions of packaging products, protection, containment and communication, and also offers extra functionalities. Advanced technology is used to provide additional information about the packaging without interacting with the product.

The umbrella term also includes active packaging, modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) and intelligent packaging, among others. The smart packaging end-use submarkets that will flourish in the next 10 years show maximum demand in the pharmaceutical, food and beverage, and personal care segments.

As we can see, the smart packaging system provides complete information about a product with both external and internal indicators, especially about the history and quality of a product. While advanced integrated technology has driven the development of this market, rapid urbanization and increased consumption of personal care products across the world has led to this demand for smart packaging.

The global smart packaging market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 7.8 percent and reach $37.8 billion by 2022. Among all global markets, the Asia-Pacific region is expected to see the most growth at a CAGR of 9.1 percent, with the Middle East following closely.

Along with the changing consumer demands in mature markets, untapped geographic markets offer tremendous opportunities for the players. For tech-savvy consumers, smart packaging will be a boon. It will deliver immense value and aid in their decision-making as they can now track environmental conditions, see usage indicators and even monitor freshness.

A recent Packaging World article by Kay Cooksey helps us understand the rising demand for smart packaging better. Consumer demands for natural and organic foods have in turn led to the rise of clean labeling.

Packaging can contribute to this movement to a large extent by offering clear, concise information. Smart packaging with its built-in technology can bring further clarity and trustworthiness into this conversation.