What Is Smart Packaging and How Does It Work?

For most of history, the purpose of packaging has been to safely transport goods from point A to point B. Smart packaging is not out to change that, but it does add a few more functionalities to the mix. It’s not just made for large brands either; even small businesses can get on the smart packaging trend in a cost-effective way. Here is our take on smart packaging – what it is, how it works and how it could benefit your business.

What is smart packaging?

To put it simply, smart packaging is packaging that has been enhanced with digital technology. Additional features such as QR codes, RFID tags and NFC tags can be added to your packaging to extend its functionality. This means that smart packaging goes beyond the traditional purposes of protecting your goods and giving you a recognisable brand.

Smart packaging is an umbrella term which covers many different types of technologically enhanced packaging. The two most popular sub-categories are active and intelligent packaging.

Active packaging is used to improve the ability to preserve a product. It’s commonly seen with fresh food and pharmaceutical products.

Did you know that corrugated cardboard can help keep food fresh?

Intelligent packaging is used to improve the brand communication for a product or business. This communication may be direct to the consumer, to the retailer or sending information about the product back to its supplier.

So far, smart packaging is proving popular in the food and beverage, healthcare, and beauty and wellness industries. As the technology becomes more well-known and accessible – we expect many businesses (big or small) will jump on the trend.

How does smart packaging work?

There’s no single method for creating smart packaging and new technologies are appearing all the time. To give you an idea, here is how three popular types of smart packaging work.

1. Connected packaging

The jury is still out on whether connected packaging can be called smart packaging, but we think it fits the bill. Connected packaging is any packaging which allows users to connect with the internet. The most common ways to connect are through QR codes, NFC tags or barcodes. When scanned, these features will send customers or retailers to a specific online space. For example, your packaging could invite consumers to follow your social media with a QR code that sends them direct to your profile.

Connected packaging is a type of intelligent packaging.

2. Shelf-life extension packaging

Exciting advancements are happening in the food and beverage and pharmaceutical industries – packaging can now help keep food or products fresh. This type of smart packaging uses special materials that can absorb or release moisture, oxygen and other gases. This helps keep the optimal product conditions intact, meaning the product should last longer.

Shelf-life extension packaging is a type of active packaging.

3. Track and trace packaging

Track and trace packaging is used by suppliers to track the movement of their packages through a supply chain. By placing RFID tags into the packaging, the supplier can see where their goods are up to on the delivery chain. Though we’ve used barcodes in this way for many years, RFID tags are more accurate and can transmit a larger amount of data. Suppliers use this smart packaging to help improve their supply chain efficiency and prevent theft.

Track and trace packaging is a type of intelligent packaging.

food packaging cardboard box with QR code

4 benefits of smart packaging

Smart packaging is more than just the latest trend, it’s a new way for the packaging industry to improve its service. Here are four benefits to using smart packaging.

Create experiential marketing

Smart packaging features are able to turn your boxes into a marketing tool. This is proving one of the most popular smart packaging enhancements so far. With a simple QR code, you can give customers a unique selling point and a stronger connection to your brand. Not sure what to link them to? Here are a few ideas:

  • Inspire them with product tutorials and recipes ideas
  • Take them behind the scenes with a video on the making of your product
  • Have them enter a competition
  • Try using AR, like a photo filter or mini game, to enhance their experience

Improve your sustainability

One way to be more sustainable is to reduce your packaging size. For example, some companies are replacing physical user manuals with digital resource hubs. By scanning a QR code, consumers can get their product setup with a fully online tutorial. It’s also possible to provide video instructions online, which makes for a better customer experience.

Another option is to use your packaging to teach people about waste. By creating an online learning hub, you can teach consumers how to responsibly dispose of your packaging. For example:

  • Tell them how to compost your packaging
  • Teach them which pieces are recyclable
  • Share ideas for how to reuse the packaging

Learn why cardboard is one of the most environmentally-friendly packaging choices.

Prevent theft and counterfeiting

With premium products, it’s possible that theft will happen. Smart packaging equipped with RFID tags offer better tracking in supply chains, which deters theft and lets you see when your product has safely arrived.

Some businesses are also exploring how NFC tags can be used to deliver a certificate of authenticity. These smart chips are embedded into your packaging and connect the purchaser to a digital certificate once scanned. This helps minimise counterfeit products passing off as your own, which in turn provides a form of brand protection.

Greater visibility in your supply chain

We’ve always had some visibility on supply chains, with barcodes letting us know when a package leaves point A or arrives at point B. But, with new technology like RFID tags, we have more accurate data. Since these tags can hold more data, they can send more information back to the supplier too. For example, some companies use RFID tags to see when a product is low in stock. This helps them prepare a restock just in time to avoid empty shelves.

Quality packaging, made in Melbourne

With more than 20 years’ experience in corrugated box manufacturing, Echo Cartons are industry experts. We pride ourselves on our friendly team, fast service and great quality boxes. Based in Braeside, Melbourne; we’re the packaging supplier of choice for Australian SME’s. When you’re ready to kickstart a packaging order – simply request a quote.

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top