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The basic principles of packaging to preserve, merchandise, protect, market, and distribute are applied very effectively in the food industry. More recently, food packages have been developed which offer tamper-evident or tamper-resistant features, allow for product preparation, and provide dispensing features and many conveniences such as single serving portions. Often the food product and its package are developed to be an integrated unit such as an aerosol product.
Technological breakthroughs in metals, glass, paperboard, composites, and most especially plastics have provided a multitude of opportunities for improved food packaging. The plastics segment of the packaging industry has shown the most rapid growth for many reasons. Some of the most important are: some plastics can be used in microwave ovens; plastics have a wide range of physical and barrier properties; and plastics offer design capabilities and features not available with other packaging materials.
However, ecological and environmental concerns are growing rapidly, along with federal, state, and local regulations and laws which will have an effect on the whole packaging industry. Further, the demographic changes related to the increased percentage of older consumers will also have significant effects on food packaging in the future.
Senior scientist, Beatrice/Hunt-Wesson, Inc., Fullerton, CA