Introduced in the year 1884, glass bottles are the first dairy packaging material for retail. Before this, people used their containers for getting milk and other items from the dairy farms. It was only during World War II, wax-coated paper containers came into existence for retail distribution of milk followed by plastic-coated paper. Today, more than 75% of dairy packaging comprises plastic.
The fast pace of life and changing food preferences justify the consumer’s want for packaged food. Not only the range of dairy products has grown over time, but their shelf-life is also increased. Reason – lots of development have been done in dairy packaging to preserve dairy products from internal and external conditions. Let’s look at the basic requirements of dairy packaging followed by innovations and new product launches in the market.
What Influences the Shelf-life of Dairy Products?
The shelf-life of dairy products depends on certain intrinsic and extrinsic factors. The intrinsic factors include pH, nutrient content, presence of antimicrobial compounds, and oxidation potential of the milk. Pasteurization, condensation, and drying are common methods to make dairy products fit for packaging and storing.
Storage conditions and air content contribute to the extrinsic factors of dairy packaging. Plastic, laminated paperboard, glass, and metal provide required isolation to the dairy products like milk, milk- powder, cheese, cheese spreads, butter, ice cream, desserts, and yoghurts.
New Opportunities in Dairy Packaging
According to the Grand View Research, the global dairy packaging market is projected to reach USD 83.77 billion by the end of 2025.
The emerging trends in dairy packaging are a result of rising demand for minimally processed food; changes in retail distribution network; growth of e-commerce; and introduction of milk vending machines.
Dairy companies are investing in packaging technologies like controlled and modified atmospheric packaging, intelligent, active, nano, and antimicrobial packaging. Researchers predict that manufacturers will promote glass packaging in the next eight years because of their excellent recyclability. The following are some of the emerging trends in dairy packaging.
The U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the European Commission are imposing strict regulations towards limiting carbon gas emissions. That’s why dairy product manufacturers are now switching to eco-friendly packaging materials. Eco-friendly plastic packaging is, therefore, a suitable choice for manufacturers who don’t want to compromise with the product’s shelf-life without refrigeration. The eco-friendly plastics are of the following three types-
- Bioplastics: These are made from sustainable materials like cornstarch.
- Biodegradable plastics: They contain additives that decay plastics under exposure to sunlight and air.
- Recycled plastics: These are packaging made from used and recycled plastics.
The dairy industry is also witnessing structural innovations in packaging; such as – tap-it-dispensers, multi-layered milk bags, stand-up milk pouches, to name some. For example, in November 2018, Haifa-based Copy Centre introduced renewable paperboard-based packaging cups for Tnuva’s dessert brand Yolo.
Convenience Product Formats
Convenience will remain an important criterion for purchase. For instance, stand-up pouches and preformed pouches are portable and lightweight, which are comfortable to use for the consumers.
Dairy products are also a great source of nutrition. Because of growing awareness towards nutritional enrichment, consumers’ demand for dairy products is increasing. Seeking the opportunity, national dairy farming cooperatives in developing countries like China, India, Vietnam and Brazil are following a “forward integration strategy”. Here, these cooperatives are selling finished dairy products including ice cream, cheese and yoghurt through offline and online channels. These strategies are expected to open new avenues for packaging manufacturing companies.
From 2016-17, developed economies have been witnessing an increase in the number of new non-GMO labelled dairy products by 15% year-on-year (YOY) basis. In November 2018, Germany-based Ekosem-Agrar AG launched EkoNiva Brand in Russia specifically for fresh milk, sour milk, kefir, butter, cheese, yoghurt, and semi-hard cheese. Such new convenient dairy products are projected to expand the scope of packaging in Russia and Germany over the next few years.
The convenient dairy products range is also covering on-the-go-snack options, especially for millennials. Products like drinkable yoghurts and cheese snack packs are often packed in lightweight pouches and films. This packaging is easy to use and is disposable.
Innovative Dairy Packaging Examples
Product innovation will remain a critical success factor in the dairy packaging industry. The following are some of the innovative dairy packaging products launched in recent years.
#1 Recyclable Pulp Fibres for Dairy Packaging
In November 2017, ARTA INDUSTRIAL GROUP launched a new paperboard cup under the brand name, FiberCup for dairy goods packaging. The company uses recyclable pulp fibres and recycled PET plastic resins as raw materials to produce these products.
#2 Transparent Packaging for Fermented Milk
In May 2019, Brazil-based AGRINDUS adopted transparent PET bottles for the packaging of fermented milk brand, Letti. Amcor Packaging supplies packaging materials for these products. These transparent PET bottles have thick walls to prevent deformation. It has excellent drop resistance and has eliminated the need for the foil seal barrier.
#3 Recyclable Mono Material
Constantia Flexibles- after five years of deep-research and testing has recently introduced EcoLamPlus packaging for meat, cheese, and dairy products. It comprises of layers of only PE lamination giving it a mono-material structure. This packaging reduces carbon footprint by almost 32% and ensures high degrees of moisture and oxygen barrier.
#4 Packaging for Distribution Efficiency
Tetra Pak launched Tetra Classic Aseptic Cube in December 2018 for dairy, juice, and liquid food. It’s groups 6 packages to form a cube- saving 40% of transportation space. This one of a kind structural innovation is cost-effective for manufacturers as well as environmentally sustainable.
#5 Biodegradable Dairy Bottles
An Austrian company “Naku – Made of Natural Plastic” has launched a bioplastic container for dairy items. It comprises of lactic acid from vegetable sugar and starch. The packaging is free from synthetic plasticizers, 20 times lighter than glass, and 10 times cheaper than plastic. It is completely biodegradable.
The demand for longer shelf-life, convenience, and wider scope of distribution are driving innovations in dairy packaging. Also, environmental sustainability will remain a major concern for manufacturers. Researchers predict extensive use of bioplastics and active packaging for a range of dairy products.
About The Author
Varun Juyal holds a Bachelors in Petroleum Maintenance & Operations and M.B.A in Oil & Gas Management from University of Petroleum Studies, Dehradun. He has more than four years of experience in market research and business consulting. Varun has been an active participant in a majority of the consulting engagements, product sales forecasting, and penetration studies at Grand View Research. Clients in paints & coatings, consumer goods, construction, oil & gas and chemical sectors have appreciated his consulting projects and in-depth research coverage.3