They say not to judge a book by its cover, but do you judge products based on their packaging? Consumers tend to be primarily concerned with aesthetics when it comes to a product’s packaging. Marketing teams design packaging to be eye-catching and easy to read. However, there is more to product packaging than appearance. Good packaging should help preserve your product and make it easier to store, ship, and display.
Choosing the right packaging for your products is a marriage of art and science. While marketing and aesthetics are important, the science behind a product’s packaging is something that consumers rarely consider. For example, food packaging is often made of special multilayered materials in order to preserve freshness. These “barrier layers” are designed to keep oxygen, water, or aromas trapped inside or outside of the packaging. In multilayered food packaging, one layer may be good at sealing, while another layer acts as a barrier against gas and water vapor.
The economic costs and benefits of a product’s packaging must also be considered. For instance, glass bottles are great for storing wine because they maintain flavor by sealing out oxygen while preserving aromatic compounds. However, glass is heavy, which makes wine bottles much more expensive to ship than boxed wine.
Benefits and Drawbacks of using Plastic for Packaging
Due to their light weight and durability, polymers and plastics have become the materials of choice for modern packaging. Common polymers used for packaging include polypropylene, polyethylene, and polyamide. Polypropylene and polyethylene act as water vapor barriers, while polyamide is valued for acting as a stiff oxygen and aroma barrier. Since single-layer packages and films are usually permeable to gases, polymers are often layered to act as more effective barriers between your product and the environment.
However, as plastic packaging has become more popular, manufacturers and consumers have also become more aware of its drawbacks. Some are concerned that plastics negatively affect the flavor and aroma of food and beverages. For instance, wines packaged in plastic are at a higher risk for premature oxidation than wines bottled in glass. Premature oxidation can cause wines to smell and taste odd.
Others are concerned about toxins in plastic packaging like phthalates and BPA. Plasticizers like BPA are added to polymers in order to create a stiffer and more transparent plastic. Although clarity and durability are two favorable characteristics of plastic packaging, some plasticizers are known endocrine disrupters that can interfere with the hormones in the human body.
Using Chemical Analysis to Examine Multilayered Packaging
Because there are nearly as many risks as benefits to using multilayered plastic packaging, the packaging that you choose to house your products should be carefully analyzed using chemical analysis before being offered on the market. This will ensure that the packaging has no negative affect on your products or your customers. Chemical analysis techniques like GC/MS analysis can be used to identify toxins, contaminants, and trace elements in packaging. Scientists can also use GC/MS analysis to identify endocrine disruptors like BPA in plastic products.
Multilayered packaging can also be analyzed for quality and durability. For instance, Innovatech Labs, a material testing lab, once had a client who wanted to analyze some multilayered packaging obtained from their competitor. Innovatech Labs analyzed the materials of the packaging as well as the thickness of the layers in order to learn more about the packaging’s durability. The packaging was first mounted in epoxy, cross-sectioned and photographed in order to examine the thickness of each layer.
The different layers of the sample were then analyzed using FTIR analysis in order to identify the material composition of each layer. The client was better able to choose packaging for his own product after he knew exactly what his competitor’s packaging was made of.
Learn more about how Innovatech Labs’ chemical analysis services can help you find the perfect materials to create or package your products.