One trip to the grocery store shows us a plethora of items in cartons, boxes, bottles, cups, pouches, sachets and other packaging forms. These are the usual packaging of the products we put in our carts, particularly food, beverages and medicines. But there is more to these colorful packaging forms than meets the eye. More than just being the “face” of a product, packaging can also serve to keep these products safe to consume by the buying public. These products are made clean and safe through the technology and process of aseptic packaging.
What is Aseptic Packaging?
Aseptic packaging is a manufacturing method in which pharmaceutical and various food products are sterilized separately and then combined and sealed under a sterilized environment. This specialized manufacturing process uses extreme heat to preserve the freshness of the contents while protecting it from contamination from microorganisms. This advanced sterilization process prolongs product shelf life while it safely preserves with less additives.
A recognized procedure for the preservation of various food and pharmaceutical products, aseptic packaging uses common methods of sterilization which include chemical, thermal and radiation methods. The most common method used is the hydrogen peroxide sterilization followed by hot air. At present, industries are veering away from chemical methods and are using new non-thermal methods such as light pulse, UV laser light, electron beams, and plasma discharge for sterilizing packaging materials.
Importance of Aseptic Packaging
Medicine and food are essential items for all households. With the aseptic packaging process, we are assured of the safety and health standards of these items that we encounter and consume every day.
The term “aseptic” is derived from the greek word, “septicos” which means absence of harmful and putrefactive microorganisms. Food packaging plays an important role in protecting food products from external factors such as microbial attacks or exposure to gases that could contaminate the product.
It has been around since the 1960s but aseptic packaging remains relevant to this day and for the years ahead, meeting the consumers’ demands for value and quality food products on-the-go that fit their busy lifestyle.
5 Benefits of Aseptic Packaging
1. Extended shelf life
Even without refrigeration, aseptic packaging increases the shelf life of select food products for at least 6-12 months. A longer shelf life gives manufacturers and retailers more time to sell their products before they expire or lose flavor and health benefits. For consumers, an extended expiry date allows them more time to store and consume the products they bought, even at ambient temperature.
2. No need for preservatives
The state-of-the-art sterilization process of aseptic packaging protects the products against bacteria which allows the use of more natural ingredients and eliminates the need for preservatives. With this, manufacturers can meet the growing demand of consumers for a cleaner ingredients list, free from chemicals and added preservatives.
3. Maintained product quality
Consumer demand for nutrient-filled food is addressed with the aseptic packaging process because it helps preserve the taste and overall quality of food products. The taste, the smell and even the nutritional value of food in aseptic packaging are preserved and not compromised, assuring the customers of the quality of the products that they purchase.
The importance of aseptic packaging is even greater in the pharmaceutical industry ensuring absolute sterility of medical devices and medicines and keeping them free from contamination of any kind.
Manufacturers use the aseptic packaging process as a sustainable method that contributes to their green initiative. The packaging is primarily made up of renewable resources like paper and cartons and reduces the use of plastic by a great proportion. As a response to the industry-wide demand for sustainability, some companies use eco-friendly packaging that is carbon neutral and 100% recyclable. This kind of packaging is expected to appeal to more ecologically-aware consumers who are looking for authenticity in their product choices.
5. Reduced Distribution and Shipping Cost
Materials used in aseptic packaging are lightweight compared to most traditional packaging types. Some of the materials used for aseptic packaging include polyethylene, which protects the product by preventing moisture entering and leaving the container, and film foil that helps preserve the product by keeping lights and moisture out.
These lightweight and protective materials help reduce the shipping weight and eliminates the need to refrigerate products that require a cooler temperature during distribution. These factors allow the manufacturers to cut down on their shipping and distribution costs.
Emerging Need for Aseptic Packaging
In 2015, pharmaceuticals have the largest market for aseptic packaging, with 61% of total demand in the United States, per the Freedonia Group’s report. But the demand for aseptic packaging for food and beverage continues to grow as a rise in its popularity is seen in recent years.
In 2017, the market for aseptic packaging was worth $40 million. The industry is expected to grow every year with the increased demand from rapidly growing nations, coupled with stricter government regulations on food manufacturing.
With the increasing demand both coming from the food sector and health sector, a significant growth is seen projected from $38.16 billion in 2019 to $81.22 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 9.9% as per the report published by the Fior Markets.
This growth can be attributed to the changing lifestyle of consumers in emerging economies that led to the increased demands for ready-to-eat food. There was also a shift in consumer preference against the use of food preservatives leading to an increased demand in the aseptic packaging market.
A Food Innovation That is Here to Stay
Aseptic packaging is probably one of the most innovative food technology discoveries of the 20th century. It has brought safe and nutritious food to millions of homes around the world. It continues to do so while keeping up with the consumers’ demands for products that are tailored to their specific needs. While there is still a need for good food items that are safe, delicious and nutritious, the technology of aseptic packaging his here to stay.