Packaging of Food and its Functions

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With change in time, market has now become more sophisticated. Consumers demand not only quality products but also its convenience for use, disposability and others. Packaging has major role in protecting the food, enabling it to be preserved, extending the shelf life, making it more convenient, easier to handle and transport. By identifying the contents and manufacturer, it has led to emergence of “brands”.

Packaging is the means of ensuring safe delivery of a product to the consumer in food condition at minimum overall cost. It is often said that, a package must protect what is sells and must sell what it protects. Food industry is the major user of packaging. It is the technologist’s responsibility to ensure that packaging used is suitable, economical and will run well in machines.

The good technologist has to be aware of corrosion in metal packaging, leaching of chemicals from packaging material to food, water vapor and gas permeability, machinability, heat sealing ability, friction and elasticity. Writing packaging specifications and doing quality tests are also the major tasks, the technologists perform.

Packaging material can be broadly divided into two category; primary and secondary packaging. Primary packaging refers to retail pack. For example; a packet of noodle. Secondary packaging (also called shipping packaging) refers to outer packaging that protects the primary packages. For example; carton of noodles. Tertiary packaging covers all the miscellaneous items like adhesives, strapping and tapes.

Both primary and secondary packaging have the following functions:

Protection: The product must be protected from the influences that will cause its quality to deteriorate. These include contamination from microorganism, oxygen, moisture, dust, light, odors etc.

Preservation: The package provides and environment inside which the product is preserved and recontamination is prevented. Example; aseptic packaging.

Containment: It would be very difficult to transport the product from the factory to the retailer if there was no way to contain it.

Information: Packaging displays an important information regarding name of product, brand, address of manufacturer, manufacture and expiry date, direction to handle the product, safe storage of product, direction to cook and other useful information.

Marketability: packaging of food material can also be used as marketing tool. The food product with attractive packaging sands out from its competitors. Image, font, pictures used in packaging can affect sale of the product.

Convenience: Packaging makes it easier to handle, open, dispense and store the product. For secondary packaging, it should be easy to load and unload the product from vehicle and easy to store. Similarly for primary packaging, it should be easy to open, close, carry and dispense.

Efficiency: This is more relatable to packaging material in factory. If the packaging material can run well at high speed filling/ sealing machine, it improves the overall efficiency of production.

Economy: The packaging material cost is extra to the cost of product so it must be optimized. If not, the product may come too expensive. In contrary, if insufficient packaging is used, damage to the product will occur leading to loss in sales and reputation.

Disposability: The packaging should be returnable, recyclable or be easy and safe to discard.