“Optimal packaging meets the requirements for product protection and saves both money and the environment. At the same time, it must be functional for all users along the value chain, professional as well as end consumers,” says Hjalmar Granberg, who is a researcher at Innventia’s R&D section for new materials.

“An important area for us is sustainability, and we are developing new materials from renewable raw materials. In the market there are already several examples of successful innovations from us and in an interesting project, we got help from Anna Glansén and Hanna Billqvist from the design studio Tomorrowland Machine. The intention was to co-create the future of packaging with smart renewable materials. We work with interactive paper and packaging that changes the look and shape in response to various stimuli, functional pressures and bio-based barriers for food packaging.”

Self-expanding packaging

The result of the collaboration with Tomorrowland Machine became a self-expanding package that combines various aspects of sustainability. It saves space during transport, being volume compressed, while it is made in a fully bio-based and biodegradable materials developed by Innventia. The package is designed for freeze-dried food and manufactured in a material that reacts to heat.

    When Innventia’s packaging is filled with hot water, it expands and becomes a vessel that consumers can eat out of.

When the package is filled with hot water, it expands from its compressed form and becomes a vessel that consumers can eat right out of. “This is the new generation of sustainable packaging, using materials that are both technologically advanced and environmentally friendly,” says Granberg.

Active materials provide innovative design and function

Innventia has developed a number of active packaging materials with sustainability and consumer experience in mind. The concept means that cellulose composites are given different properties, where such a soft and fluffy material can be converted into strong, rigid and transparent packaging. The self-expanding packaging is one such example. Other examples include bio-based liquid barriers that can be activated and a packaging that is activated via heat and opens itself.

Another application of active materials is a package that completely or partially changes colour when exposed to moisture, temperature, mechanical stress, electricity or other stimuli. This is of course a pipe dream for a creative marketer, but also something that can provide increased product safety. Innventia has developed a thin paper coating – based on renewable materials – that reacts to moisture in exhaled air by displaying a variety of colours.

Environmentally sound barriers

The barrier material is important to protect the food from oxygen, moisture, dust, and oils but also to prevent fats, water or inert gas from entering the packaging. There are also foods that need a package that breathes through a controlled flow of certain gases to give the content a long shelf life. Other types of barrier functions can be functional so as to release antimicrobial substances or to stop chemicals from the inks to migrate through the packaging and contaminate the contents.

“The barrier material that is widely used comes from petroleum raw materials or are made of metals. But we focus our research on barrier materials based on renewable materials. Some of the bioplastics we work with include proteins like whey and gluten. Our business concept is to create innovative use of wood as cellulose is one of our favourite molecules to work with,” concludes Granberg.

The article was published in September 2013