A Mini Dictionary for Active Packaging

The active packaging industry helps many companies prolong the lifespan of their products.

Take a product like deli meat, for example. The meat naturally has a short lifespan. In time, the appearance of the meat starts to fade and it must be removed from the shelves within 10 days or so. By adding active packaging to the deli meat, the color doesn’t shift and the shelf life increases. As a result, the company extends distribution time, increases customer appeal, and sees a bump in sales.

There are a number of product success stories just like this one in the industry, but the trouble is, the active packaging world has a vocabulary all its own. To help customers understand active packaging, we’ve compiled a list of commonly-used terms in the industry.

A glossary of active packaging terms

Aerobic: A sealed package environment where oxygen is intentionally left present. For some applications such as fish, removing all of the oxygen from a package can cause harmful bacteria to form. For this reason, we would create an aerobic sealed system that has optimized levels of oxygen that keep it fresh as long as possible.

Anaerobic: A sealed package environment where all oxygen is removed. In most food applications, oxygen is the primary element that degrades quality. An anaerobic package system has no oxygen within it.

Barrier: A barrier material is used to block gases, water vapor, and other degradants from entering packaged contents.

Desiccants: Materials that have the ability to attract and hold liquids or gases.

Desiccant Dispenser: A machine that’s added to the product line to add a desiccant into a package to maintain the assembly process and output.

Equilibrium Relative Humidity (ERH): The optimal relative humidity for a specific product. Advanced simulation processes are required in order to determine the ERH. If you are purchasing desiccants without knowing the ERH for your product; your product may not be adequately protected.

Food Grade: Refers to the equipment used that handles food, which must be inspected, safe, and non-toxic.

Gas Flush: A gas, like nitrogen or carbon dioxide, is injected into a package along with an oxygen absorber to protect or preserve the product inside.

Headspace: The unfilled space in a container above the product.

Hermetically Sealed: A seal that makes packaging airtight.

Humidity: The presence of water vapor inside a package.

Moisture Migration: The movement of moisture inside a container from one place to another.

Molecular Sieve: A moisture-removing desiccant with a 3D structure and the ability to trap water vapor more aggressively than its counterpart, silica gel.

Oxygen Absorbing Adhesives: A sticky card with absorbent material that’s applied to a product’s package. Often used in sliced deli meat, cheese, baked goods, and snacks.

Oxygen Absorbing Canisters: A small can of absorbent material inside a product’s package. Often used in medical devices, vitamins, supplements, glass bottles, and HDPE packaging.

Oxygen Absorbing Bottle Closures: An innovative solution to add desiccants into a bottle’s cap. Often used in pharmaceuticals and medical diagnostic kits.

Oxygen Absorbing Cards: A card with absorbent material that’s added to a product’s package. Often used in moist meats, snacks, and baked goods.

Oxygen Absorbing Film: A film that’s incorporated into a product’s packaging. Oxygen absorbing film offers protection without adding a visible element like a packet. Often used in pouches, lidstock, flow wrap, retort, HPP, and bag-in-box packaging.

Oxygen Absorbing Packets: Small bags of absorbent material placed in a product’s package. Often used in food packaging and pharmaceuticals.

Oxygen Scavenger: An enclosed package that helps remove harmful oxygen inside a package. An oxygen absorber is another term that means the same thing.

Pharma Grade: The high standards used to create and manufacture products that share primary packaging space with pharmaceuticals.

Silica Gel: A moisture-removing desiccant often found in a granular or bead form that absorbs water into its pores to protect the product from water damage.

Sachet: A small porous bag or packet containing a material intended to interact with its atmosphere.

Sorbent: A moisture, oxygen, or volatile absorber.

Water Activity: Describes the amount of water properties and behavior within the physical makeup of a product.

Water Vapor Transmission Rate (WVTR): The rate at which water vapor passes through a material. Certain foods and pharmaceuticals are put in WVTR-controlled packages to ensure quality and extend shelf life. When selecting your packaging material or electronics housing material consider WVTR is key to ensure quality and extend shelf/service life.

Active packaging is a vital component of product packaging, but understanding the language can be a challenge. For the best assistance, reach out to an active packaging company like Multisorb for a customized experience.

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