Consumers are showing a growing readiness to use innovative nanotechnology-based solutions in the food packaging industry, according to research carried out in Europe and Asia by the EU-funded NanoPack Project.
Active food packaging technologies offer several benefits, including increased food safety, extended shelf-life, improved freshness, reduced food waste and more. In order to examine how end-users perceive nanotechnology and its benefits, the NanoPack Project conducted a thorough research on the acceptance of new active food packaging technologies among consumers and retailers.
In organized focus groups, NanoPack found that consumers were not concerned with the "nanotechnology" aspect. Interviewees expressed more concern over the inclusion of essential oils and the "active" nature of this technology with which they were not familiar. They expressed fear that food products would become "contaminated" or "altered" after the active component was released in the packaging atmosphere.
"The benefits of active packaging solutions are not always aligned in consumer minds. So, for example, extending the shelf-life of a product and keeping its freshness seem to be a contradiction in consumers' minds."," says Polymeros Chrysochou, associate professor at the Aarhus University of Denmark. "Freshness is a rather vague promised benefit and people have different interpretations of it. They may perceive it in terms of the time passed from the production, where a shorter time equates a fresher food product. This means that consumers do not see a product with an extended shelf life as being necessarily fresh, since a longer time has passed since production."
Additionally, the research further indicated that retailers' main concern was that new technologies should meet product safety criteria. Only after this has been resolved, can it be aligned with the strategy and internal processes of the company.