Smart Packaging


Tricia Sime, Packaging Innovation Director at Inland, answers smart packaging questions and discusses what inspired her to develop her latest innovation newsletter on the subject.

Picture this: You’re headed down the aisle of your favorite store and you’re interested in learning more about a product. Rather than doing a quick Google search on your smartphone, you simply hover your camera over the packaging and suddenly there it is – a 3D image of it in your living room, more information on the locally sourced ingredients it is made of, or even what it would look like applied to your own face.

Sound a bit unrealistic? Because it isn’t.

All of these packaging concepts and others are suddenly becoming more of a reality thanks to smart packaging. To give you more insight, we recently sat down with our very own Tricia Sime, Packaging Innovation Director, to discuss smart packaging and what inspired her to develop her latest innovation newsletter on the subject.

So what exactly is smart packaging?

Tricia: Smart packaging incorporates advanced technologies to communicate or interact with consumers or some other device. In its simplest form, smart packaging extends the functionality of labels and packaging beyond a standard printed format.

Does the growing use of smart packaging mean anything new for consumers?

Tricia: Consumers should expect to gain more information about their packaged products through a myriad of technologies including color changing inks, printed electronics, and augmented reality. Some of the most interesting technologies connect the consumer to the packaging through the use of their “smart devices,” such as smartphones or tablets. With this connection consumers can authenticate branded products, gain access to nutritional information, view a user’s manual and even retrieve coupons or recipes.

Can you give some examples of smart packaging already on the store shelves?

Tricia: Most of us don’t realize smart packaging has been in use for years. Barcoding is one of the most basic levels of smart packaging and has been in use for decades. Today, we are finding QR codes and other 2D codes on numerous packages. These codes, when scanned with a smart device, offer a short cut to a web address so the consumer can obtain extended content about a product. Even more exciting is the emergence of more interactive technologies such as augmented reality and Touchcode. These technologies are now in use by some major brands such as Pepsi, Lego and IKEA.

How does Inland fit into the smart packaging realm?

Tricia: Inland has had our pulse on smart packaging for a while now. One of the first smart packaging technologies commercialized by Inland was the use of thermochromic ink on the Coors Light brand labels. This smart label technology visually indicates the optimum temperature for “cold enjoyment” to the consumer. Since then our R&D group has been working with a wide variety of smart packaging technologies including augmented reality, Touchcode, 2D codes, and NFC. We realize there is no one-smart-packaging-technology-fits-all application.

It’s pretty apparent that smart packaging is still very new. What do you think the immediate future holds?

Tricia: Consumers are demanding more information about products to help them make their purchasing decisions. Unfortunately, you can only squeeze so much information on the packaging. Through the use of smart packaging technologies brand owners can provide extended content to those conscientious consumers. Combine this with the fact that smart packaging keeps consumers engaged with your brand and it all adds up to a very positive experience for the brand owner and consumer.

How about long term success?

Tricia: The future holds many possibilities with smart packaging: reduced food waste, remote diagnostics and troubleshooting, and safety/security, but the reality is it’s all dependent on cost. At what level are consumers willing to pay for these technologies? Cost implications for these technologies go beyond the “wow” factor. The brand owner and consumer must identify the value in these technologies and determine what benefits they both gain from the use of smart labeling technologies.

For more information on Tricia’s Smart Packaging insights, see her latest Innovation Newsletter focused specifically on some up-and-coming smart packaging technologies. Sign up for the quarterly newsletter