Friday, February 10, 2012: 04:11:29 PM


Packed to Perfection

Harish P Joshi throws some light on the packaging technology in India

Retailers in India have understood the importance of product packaging as a means to preserve their merchandise and most importantly, lend it maximum visual appeal. Today, packaging plays a key role due to the widespread adoption of product branding and an incessant need for retailers to meet the consumer’s demands.

The Indian packaging industry is growing in leaps and bounds with the adoption of myriad packaging techniques. Manufacturers in India now have access to modern packaging techniques that not only ensure qualitypreservation of products but are also responsible for their longer shelf life, for example, in the case of processed or semi-processed foods.

Reports from last year indicate that the Indian packaging industry is growing at a rate of 15 percent per annum. India is home to about 600–700 packaging machinery manufacturers, 95 percent of which are small and medium enterprises. The market has seen an improvement in the speed at which packaging takes place. Numbers have gone up from 30–50 pouches per minutes, five years ago to 60–100 pouches per minute in 2010. Germany is leading the world in packaging machinery export and is followed by Italy and the US. The per capita packaging consumption in India is `15 as opposed to the worldwide average of `100; this amount is the lowest among all BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations.

The Holistic Package
Sixty percent of the world demand for packaging machinery was from the foods and beverages sector in 2007. At this time, the demand from the pharmaceutical and other industrial sectors for glass, pet bottles, strip and blister packs, injections, ampoules, bulk packs and other products was around 20 percent.

Plastic is the most popular substrate as far as flexible packaging is concerned. The ratio of flexible packaging’s weight-to-product capacity is the lowest, and hence, the weight of the packaging required is very less. Consumers and manufacturers alike, need to be educated about proper collection and recycling methods. A few organisations such as the Center for Plastic and Environment in Mumbai are very active on this front as plastic is a very recyclefriendly material.

Indian retailers and suppliers, in general, are more inclined towards technology that is adaptable to change. Multi-product packing solutions are the need of the hour in the industry and this requires one machine to be equipped enough to take care of several products.

Packed and Parcelled
According to the World Packaging Organisation, India is the second-fastest packaging market, in terms of growth, keeping in mind the trends in the industry between 2004–10. Heightened competition in various product sectors within the country and an increase in number of export markets has contributed to the rising demand for appropriate and time/cost-effective packaging materials and technologies.

Given the growth the Indian economy has experienced recently, the consumer goods market is feeling positive implications of this as products packaged in small packets are becoming more and more affordable to a larger section of the population. Moreover, post liberalisation, consumerism in urban areas has been at an all-time high, and this growth will continue due to the continuous demand.

Urban consumers have a fast-paced lifestyle that does not allow them to spend much time in the kitchen. This way of living has consequently given rise to a fondness for packed foods items such as pasta, soups and ready-to-eat meals that require sustainable packaging. With growing awareness of foodrelated illnesses and an inherent need to lead a better quality of life, consumer preference in packaged food is increasingly towards hygienically-packed branded products. Also, with the growing awareness of STDs, there is an increase in demand for well-packaged contraceptives and disposables syringes.

Manufacturers and retailers have also noticed that purchasing power of Indian consumers in rural areas is lower and thus they insist on small and affordable packaged goods. In order to address this demand, products such as toothpastes, toothpowders and fairness creams are now sold in laminated pouches that are innovative and not available elsewhere. Low-priced sachets are extremely popular in small towns and villages where people cannot afford larger packs due to financial constraints.

Technology in Packaging
The type of packaging technology to be used for a product is dependent on various parameters. The packaging technology is built around one or more of these factors and caters to the customised needs of the industry.

• Method: the type of technology varies based on the way of packaging, which can be vacuum, aseptic, retortable, shrink, strip, gas flush and other methods. • Shape: the shape of the packaging includes the form or size, which includes heavy packaging (container, wooden packs), medium packaging (carton box, woven bag), light packaging (can, bottles)

• Function: the function of the packaging also changes the selection of the packaging technology. The function of the package could either be protective (resistance against shock, drop, pressure, heat and water), convenient (transport, stock, reuse), aesthetics (design, colour, size) or psychological (attractive)

Wrapping Up
The choice of classifying the need of packaging technology is critical. But packaging technology is not complete without pre- and post- packing machinery.

• Pre-packaging includes processing equipment, silos, product feeding through conveyors, bucket elevators to the packaging machine

• Post-packaging includes metal or impurity detector, check weighing, product information printing (weight, expiry and other details), labelling, etc.

Packaging solutions must also include production data and supervisor control systems that are essential in today’s packaging technology. Remote diagnostic and repair services through modem are proving to be very effective in India. With growing urbanisation, an increase in the standard of living and retail, and the reformation of the public distribution system, the packaging industry growth is likely to surpass all expectations. Indian packaging industry is graduating in technology, quality systems and economics of scale and trying to match the best in the world.

The author is the Managing Director at Nichrome India Ltd. He can be contacted at

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