New technology provides a personal touch to food and drink packaging

Packaging in the food and drink category is becoming more sustainable and increasingly interactive as brands crave better engagement with consumers. Innovative new approaches to labelling are enabling a more personalised experience for customers, driven by a greater interdependence between physical and digital content, increasing the options for brand differentiation.

At the forefront of this technology is Avery Dennison, founded in 1935 by pioneering inventor R. Stanton Avery, who kickstarted the pressure-sensitive industry when he created self-adhesive labels, a precursor to the labelling still universally used today. This culture for innovation has driven Avery Dennison through eight decades of growth to its position today with more than 25,000 employees and sales of over $6 billion.

True to the disruptive nature of its founder, the company has continued to pioneer changes in packaging with one of the largest research and development teams in the industry, providing customers with new category opportunities through a combination of material science and advanced process technology capabilities that enable patented technology, intelligent labels, and sustainable products and services.

“Innovation is at the heart of Avery Dennison with material science a core part of our DNA,” says Georges Gravanis, the company’s president for label and graphic materials. “Our founder pioneered the pressure-sensitive materials industry, and we have continued to create and drive change ever since.

“Labelling and packaging within food and drink is multi-faceted and can be quite complex, but for our team, who focus on combining our unique insights with our research and development strengths, the challenges of today and the opportunities of the future are very exciting. We are seeing technology combine with material breakthroughs to create real alternatives for labelling and packaging of the future.”


Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, which contain chips that store unique item data about the products they are attached to, are helping to reduce food waste by improving efficiency in food delivery and stock management. Through their unique identities and ability to store extensive information, the technology is providing a welcome alternative to traditional barcodes in industries such as retail where food waste is extremely costly.

Preliminary analysis of a recent three-month trial of RFID tags by a leading food retailer in the UK points to a potential reduction in food waste of 20 per cent and food stock management costs of 50 per cent. The pilot programme has also shown improvement of inventory accuracy up to 99 per cent for food distribution across the supply chain.

As well as creating RFID solutions that drive significant benefits through the supply chain, Avery Dennison has committed to achieving ambitious sustainability goals by 2025. Its proprietary SmartFace technology uses paper substrate to enable recyclability and an entire category of products, its Clear Intent™ portfolio, is dedicated to sustainability.

“It is core to our values, but also key to the future of our business as the demand for sustainable practices and products is increasing,” says Mr Gravanis. “Our Clear Intent portfolio is focused on responsible sourcing, reduced materials usage and recyclability. It contains hundreds of facestocks, adhesives and other solutions made with fewer inputs, certified, renewable materials and performance-enhancing innovations.

“We understand that consumers within the food and drinks category expect the brands they purchase from are good corporate citizens. Increasingly, that means they expect full transparency in the products they are buying, not only of the food and drink itself, but also the packaging.

“How the material is made is important, but more important is the impact it has on the overall recyclability of the package and its end of life. We have a number of solutions that have been invented to make recycling easier and various compostable solutions, and we are committed to increasing innovation in this area.”

Another sustainable way of reducing waste is coming through reclosure technology, which packaged-goods companies and packaging designers are adopting to keep food fresh for longer. Oxygen barrier films combined with pressure-sensitive reclosure adhesives prevent oxygen and moisture from entering food packaging by enabling easy opening and repeated resealability.

Adhesives can not only be used to keep products fresher and more sustainable, but also to make them look more attractive. Shelf appeal has always been important in food and drink, and ever-growing consumer choice has driven a need for labels and packaging that stand out from the crowd. Avery Dennison combines new material facestocks with advanced adhesives that ensure products maintain their aesthetic appeal even when sat in an ice bucket for hours.


Material science is converging with the wider retail trend of personalisation to transform approaches to food and drink packaging. When asked for their top customer engagement priorities by Boston Retail Partners, seven in ten retailers cited personalisation, which can include digital printing and integrated technology.

Last year, Avery Dennison launched a smart cloud-based solution called Janela™ that connects products to the internet of things through unique, serialised labels. By capturing real-time data, Janela provides insights that help brands and retailers personalise the consumer experience and sell products more intelligently.

“With the internet of everything fast becoming a reality and consumer demand increasing for enhanced digital experiences, technology must be pushed to meet industry demand,” says Francisco Melo, vice president and general manager of global RFID at Avery Dennison. “Our intelligent labelling solutions have truly become an integral part of connecting everyday things to the digital world to increase speed in the supply chain, improve processes and enhance consumer experience.”

By enabling personalisation, technologies such as Janela enable brands to be much more focused in their targeting of individual consumers. Materials used in digital printing have different compositions than in traditional printing and as the technologies advance so does the need for material science.

We understand that consumers within the food and drinks category expect the brands they purchase from are good corporate citizens

Through intelligent labels such as near-field communication (NFC) and quick response (QR) codes, brands and retailers can interact and engage with consumers on a one-on-one basis. This direct line of communication can then be used as a marketing channel to offer unique styling recommendations and reviews and rewards based on an individual’s shopping habits. Intelligent labels can also be used to create unique in-store experiences, blurring the line between the physical and the digital world.

Whether it is RFID labels, reclosure technology or personalisation, Avery Dennison continues to drive innovation in the packaging industry more than 80 years after its founder set the foundations for its growth. And at the heart of this development pipeline is a clear focus on ensuring sustainability and labelling come hand in hand.

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