Retail food packaging serves several purposes, including protecting, identifying, and marketing food products. Advancements in food packaging technology make these goals easier and more effective. 3D printing is on the rise in many industries, including food packaging, as 3D printing equipment has become more cost effective and accessible over the past decade. Cutting-edge, industrial technologies like digital and 3D printing are poised to make a significant impact on the realm of food packaging. These innovations are set to revolutionize the way packaging manufacturers operate, offering them new avenues for enhancing customization and diversity.
Notable concerns regarding 3D printed food packaging includes food safety. "Food grade" indicates material safety for human consumption or food contact approval, while "food safe" adds the assurance of meeting stringent usage requirements without compromising food safety. Understanding these terms empowers businesses to uphold quality, adhere to regulations, and prioritize consumer well-being. The FDA has developed testing that certifies the safety of this type of packaging that adheres to national guidelines. According to formlabs and the FDA Food Code
, these are the material requirements:
- No migration of deleterious substances
- Does not impart colors, odors, or tastes
- Safe under normal use conditions
- Durable, corrosion-resistant, and nonabsorbent
- Sufficient in weight to withstand repeated washing
- Finished to have a smooth, easily cleanable surface without breaks and sharp internal angles
- Resistant to pitting, chipping, crazing, scratching, scoring, distortion, and decomposition
- Accessible to inspection
Foods packaged with 3D printed packaging must meet these requirements and will have labels indicating their FDA approval.
3D printed food packaging does not only allow for enhanced creativity for package design and brand individuality, but also allows for further technological innovation. One of these innovations is Intelligent Food Packaging (IFP). IFP can potentially be used to indicate product quality and freshness using specially designed sensors or indicators. This technology is still under development; however, when it is ready to hit the market, IFP will likely draw even more manufacturers to use 3D printing for their packaging.
If you are interested in learning more about food packaging trends and market forecasts, Freedonia Group’s report, “US Food Packaging
”, is for you!