A number of new packaging materials are emerging, as the packaging industry balances consumer preferences, performance standards and end-of-life solutions in its quest for innovation. For instance, mineralized additives, liquid-infused coatings, vacuum-insulated panels and polyethylene furanoate are the most promising advances today, according to a study conducted by Lux Research, Boston, Mass.

“A number of next-generation materials are emerging, but bio-based waxes and nanocellulose need further refining while bio-based polyurethanes and starch-based composites hold long-term potential,” says Gihan Hewage, associate and lead author of the report.

The study, “Thinking Outside the Box: Identifying Materials Innovations in Packaging,” evaluated several new materials from four broad classes of materials technologies – additives, coatings, thermal management materials and structural materials – based on performance, end-of-life solutions and maturity.

Among the findings:

  • Consumer packaged goods heavyweights testing new products. In the race toward new packaging materials, some beverage processors are developing plant-based bottles using mushroom-based packaging, while other food manufactures aim to cut weight and increase recyclable content.
  • Calcium carbonate is a standout performer for recyclability. Among mineral additives, calcium carbonate stands out for its performance when added to conventional polymers, improving the recyclability of virgin resin. Other additives, such as nanocellulose, allyl isothiocyanate and nanoclays have viable end-of-life solutions, but lag on performance.
  • Non-packaging innovations help too. Packaging innovation extends beyond materials. Advances in recycling, for example, help by enabling viable end-of-life solutions for more materials, and Internet of Things (IoT) supports packaging for cargo and shipping containers. Similarly, wearable and flexible electronics and digital health and wellness technologies broaden packaging options.