Intelligent packaging for the beverage industry

The global market for intelligent packaging with printed electronic components is growing rapidly. Messe München is focusing on this topic with two events: drinktec, the World’s Leading Trade Fair for the Beverage and Liquid Food Industry, will take place from September 11 to 15, 2017. The drinktec Forum on September 14 will provide information about printed electronics applications in the beverage industry. LOPEC, the International Exhibition and Conference for the Printed Electronics Industry, will then take place six months later from March 13 to 15, 2018 and will focus, among other things, on smart packaging.

Whether they are organic LEDs on soft drink bottles or forgery-proof RFID labels on spirits, smart labels are making their way into the beverage industry. “Many sectors already use printed electronic components. The thin, lightweight and flexible elements can be integrated perfectly into packaging and labels,” as Wolfgang Mildner, general chair of the LOPEC Conference and CEO of the consulting and technology company MSW, stresses.

Six months before LOPEC, Mildner will look at the potential of printed electronics for beverage manufacturers at drinktec 2017. He will take part as a speaker in the “Smart Packaging enabled by Printed Electronics” drinktec Forum being held in Hall A2 from 14:30 to 16:00 on September 14. The program furthermore includes a presentation given by PragmatIC from Cambridge, England, as well as a panel discussion. This session is being organised by the industry association and LOPEC co-organiser OE-A (Organic and Printed Electronics Association).

According to the current OE-A Roadmap, the printing and packaging industry is changing. Packaging is no longer simply used to wrap up products, but is including more and more additional functions. According to an independent market research institute, the global market for smart packaging will increase in value from under USD 11 billion in 2015 to almost USD 27 billion in 2024. “We are also seeing the first applications in the beverage industry,” says Mildner.

For example, a Spanish wine producer recently attached printed near-field communication tags (NFC tags) from the Norway-based OE-A member and LOPEC exhibitor Thin Film Electronics to 126,000 wine bottles. When customers hold an NFC-capable smartphone close to the tag, they will find out about a competition. NFC tags can also serve as a seal of authenticity to protect against counterfeiting or provide consumers with information in the form of videos, for example.

Organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) are also opening up new avenues for product marketing. If a package flashes when a customer walks past the shelf, it is sure to attract attention. OLEDs comprise ultra-thin organic semiconductor layers and are printed directly onto packaging or labels along with the battery.

However, printed electronics in the beverage and food sector is far more than just an advertising tool. RFID tags, for example, simplify supply change management by storing information about the entire value and supply chain. Printed temperature sensors, can register interruptions in the cold chain.

With this and many other practical examples, LOPEC will be celebrating its tenth anniversary next year. Visitors can look forward to an exciting anniversary program that will clearly show that printed electronics has come of age and is ready for commercial use.

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