Lesson- 3 Functions of food packaging

3.1. Introduction

Packaging is an industrial and marketing technique for containing, protecting, identifying and facilitating the sale and distribution of agricultural, industrial and consumer products.


The packaging institute international defines packaging as a enclosure of products, items or packages in a wrapped pouch, bag, box, cup, tray, can, tube, bottle or other container form to perform one or more of the following functions as containment, protection and /or preservation, communications and utility or performance.  If the device or container performs one or more of these functions it is considered as a package.

The UK Institute of packaging provides three definitions of packaging.

(a)  A coordinated system of preparing goods for transport, distribution, storage, retailing and end-use.

(b)  A means of ensuring safe delivery to the ultimate consume in sound condition at minimum cost.

(c)   A techno-economic function aimed at minimizing cost of delivery while maximizing sales.

3.2. Basic functions of packaging

Efficient packaging is a necessity for every kind of food, whether it is fresh or processed .It is an essential link between the food producer and the consumer, and unless performed correctly the standing of the product suffers and customer goodwill is lost. The basic functions of packaging are more specifically stated. 

3.2.1. Containment

 The containment function involves the ability of the packaging to maintain its integrity during the handling involved in filling, sealing, processing (in some cases, such as retorted, irradiated, and high-pressure-processed foods), transportation, marketing, and dispensing of the food.

3.2.2 Protection

 The need for protection depends on the food product but generally includes prevention of biological contamination (from microorganisms, insects, rodents), oxidation (of lipids, flavors, colors, vitamins, etc.), moisture change (which affects microbial growth, oxidation rates, and food texture), aroma loss or gain, and physical damage (abrasion, fracture, and/or crushing). Protection can also include providing tamper evident features on the package. In providing protection, packaging maintains food safety and quality achieved by refrigeration, freezing, drying, heat processing, and other preservation of foods.

3.2.3 Communication

The information that a package provides involves meeting both legal requirements and marketing objectives. Food labels are required to provide information on the food processor, ingredients (including possible allergens in simple language), net content, nutrient contents, and country of origin. Package graphics are intended to communicate product quality and, thus, sell the product. Bar codes allow rapid check-out and tracking of inventory. Other package codes allow determination of food production location and date. Various open dating systems inform the consumer about the shelf life of the food product. Plastic containers incorporate a recycling code for identification of the plastic material.

3.2.4 Preservation

Product protection is the most important function of packaging. Protection means the establishment of a barrier between the contained product and the environment that competes with man for the product.

      3.2.5 Convenience

 Providing convenience (sometimes referred to as utility of use or functionality) to consumers has become a more important function of packaging. Range of sizes, easy handling, easy opening and dispensing, resealability, and food preparation in the package are examples of packaging providing convenience to the consumer.

     3.2.6 Unitization

Unitization is assembly or grouping of a number of individual items of products or packages into a single entity that can be more easily distributed, marketed, or purchased as a single unit. For example: a paperboard folding carton containing three flexible material pouches of seasoning or soup mix delivers more product to a consumer than does a single pouch. A paperboard carton wrapped around 12 beer bottles provides more desired liquid refreshment for home entertainment than does an attempt to carry individual bottles in one’s hands.

Unitization reduces the number of handlings required in physical distribution and, thus, reduces the potential for damage. Because losses in physical distribution are significantly reduced with unitization, significant reductions in distribution costs are affected.

     3.2.7Information about the product

Packaging is one of the major communications media. Usually overlooked in the measured media criteria, packaging is the main communications link between the consumer or user and the manufacturer, at both the point of purchase and the point of use. Packaging educates consumers about requirements, product ingredients and uses etc.

     3.2.8 Presentation

Material type, shape, size, colour and merchandising display units etc. of packaging improve display of food.

      3.2.9Brand communication

Packaging provides brand communication to the consumers by the use of typography, symbols, illustrations,   advertising and colour, thereby creating visual impact.

3.2.10 Promotion

Packaging helps to promote the food as it informs to consumers about many offers i.e. free extra product, new product, money off etc.

      3.2.11 Economy

The package is also an important part of the manufacturing process and must be efficiently filled, closed, and processed at high speeds in order to reduce costs. It must be made of materials which are rugged enough to provide protection during distribution but be of low enough cost for use with foods. Packaging costs, which include the materials as well as the packaging machinery, are a significant part of the cost of manufacturing foods, and in many cases, these costs can be greater than the cost of the raw ingredients used to make the food. Therefore, packaging materials must be economical, given the value of the food product.

  3.3 Other functions of packaging

Other functions of packaging include apportionment of the product into standard units of weight, measure, or quantity prior to purchase. Yet another objective is to facilitate product use by the consumer with devices such as spouts, squeeze bottles, and spray cans. Aerosols not only serve as dispensers, but also prepare the product for use, such as aerating the contained whip toppings. Still other forms of packaging are used in further preparation of the product by the consumer, for example tea bags that are plastic-coated, porous paper pouches, or frozen dinner trays, which were originally aluminum and now are fabricated from other materials such as crystallized polyester and polyester-coated paperboard.

  3.4 Requirements for effective food packaging

Some of the important general requirements of food packages are given below

  1. Be nontoxic

  2. Protect against contamination from microorganisms

  3. act as a barrier to moisture loss or gain and oxygen ingress

  4. protect against ingress of odors or environmental toxicants

  5. Filter out harmful UV light

  6. Provide resistance to physical damage

  7. Be transparent (8) be tamper – resistant or tamper – evident

  8. Be easy to open

  9. Have dispensing and resealing features

  10. Be disposed of easily,

  11. Meet size, shape and weight requirements

  12. Have appearance, printability features

  13. Be low cost

  14. Be compatible with food

  15. Have special features such as utilizing groups of product together.

Last modified: Wednesday, 3 July 2013, 7:36 AM