Aseptic Packaging Lines in the Food and Drink Industry Analysis

Packaging is one of the most crucial aspects of the food and drink industry. Food and drink should be packed in the most hygienic and safe techniques. Aseptic packaging lines play significant roles in ensuring that food and drink are packaged in technologies that inhibit the growth and spread of harmful bacteria that cause foodborne infections.

This research will analyze the aseptic packaging lines paying key interest on current trends, current technologies, technology gaps, and the future of aseptic packaging.

It is expected that the project outcomes will sufficiently address the rising concerns and expectations precisely for aseptic packaging in the food and drinking industry.

Introduction

In the food and drink industry, preservation, quality maintenance, and safety are some of the key issues that raise concerns globally (Brockgreitens & Abbas 2016).

There are high demands for safe (free from infections) food and drink (Lucera et al. 2012). In the global competitive market, there are numerous food and drink packaging lines and companies. The different packaging lines, in the food and beverage industry, adopt different packaging technologies due to various requirements and packaging standards.

A key issue that should inform the choice of a company’s packaging technology would be food infections. As such, food and drink should be packaged in the most hygienic ways, which meet market and health standards. Other factors that influence the choice of packaging include the need to reduce food wastage, brand perception, promotion, and other marketing factors (Hebden et al. 2011; Letona et al. 2014; Verghese et al. 2015; Singh, Krasowski & Singh 2011).

It is apparent that the use of aseptic packaging in the food industry is extremely high. Many food and drink packaging companies rely on aseptic packaging to ensure that their products are in the desired conditions from the time of manufacturing to the time they are readily available for consumption.

Research has linked aseptic packaging to longer food and drink shelf lives, retained flavors, and freshness (Gutiérrez et al. 2011). It is also worth noting that packaging contributes significantly to food and drink contamination (Gulhane, Gomashe & Nikure 2015). The efficacy of the aseptic packaging technology is evident and has been tested even in other industries, including the pharmaceutical industry (Nityanand et al. 2013).

This research paper will analyse the aseptic packaging lines.

Literature review

Aseptic packaging technology is a key milestone in the food and drink industry. There are increasing demands to preserve food and drink while maintaining high standards of hygiene (Makwana, Choudhary & Kohli 2015). In addition, there is the increasing drive to minimise food-borne infections (Othman et al. 2014; Verghese et al. 2015; Coma 2013). The antimicrobial packaging technologies provide solutions to some of these issues that raise concerns in the food and drink industry due to their ability to inhibit growth and spread of disease-causing organisms (Jamshidian et al. 2016; Afzaal et al. 2015).

Materials, agents, and techniques used by different aseptic packaging lines

Different aseptic packaging lines use diverse agents/resources in making antibacterial packaging materials (Hladikova et al. 2015).

Titanium dioxide TiO2 is one of the most commonly used material adopted by aseptic packaging lines in the food industry (Sirsat & Neal 2015). Packaging companies adopt TiO2 nanoparticle-coated film due to the photocatalytic antiseptic properties (Metak 2015; Kobayashi & Odake 2012; Afzaal et al. 2015).

Edible material

Many aseptic packaging lines are incorporating edible materials in food packaging. Numerous edible packaging materials can be adopted in aseptic packaging (Sánchez-Ortega et al. 2014).

Sánchez-Ortega et al. (2014) carried out a study on the use of edible antimicrobial agents in aseptic packaging in the meat industry, which has a substantial degree of foodborne infections. In the study, Sánchez-Ortega et al. (2014) analyzed current data related to aseptic EFCs used in the food industry with a key interest in meat and meat products. The study revealed that edible films and coatings (EFCs) are increasingly gaining popularity in meat packaging, especially when used with antimicrobials. Numerous packaging lines view the antiseptic EFCs technology as a milestone in meat preservation due to their ability to provide barriers against spoilage and pathogens (Sánchez-Ortega et al. 2014).

Díez-Pascual and Díez-Vicente (2015) investigated aseptic poly (butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT) materials and their efficacy in food and drink packaging. Key features of PBAT under investigation were physiochemical properties, water absorption, barrier, migration, antibacterial, viscoelastic, and mechanical properties (Díez-Pascual & Díez-Vicente 2015).

Vodnar et al. (2015) suggest that various aseptic packaging lines use edible packaging materials with dual purpose, edible and aseptic components (Vodnar et al. 2015). The use of edible aseptic films to foods is increasingly getting prevalent among aseptic packaging lines.

Aseptic packaging lines adopt other antimicrobial materials such as silver ions, organic acids, spice-based essential oils, Nisin bacteriocin, Vanillin, and oxides, among many others (Ramos et al. 2015).

The efficacy of materials used by aseptic packaging lines

Several studies have been done to investigate the efficacy of the materials used by aseptic packaging lines (Jamshidian et al. 2016; Sohrabpour, Oghazi & Olsson 2016; Cerisuelo, Gavara & Hernández-Muñoz 2015). It is imperative to note that the reliability of the tests is evident as many of the investigations adopt scientific methods. Many of the tests reveal that most of the antimicrobial agents used by aseptic packaging lines have a high degree of efficacy. Decisively, most of the materials used protect food from infections by inhibiting spread and growth of microorganisms.

Rollini et al. (2016) investigated the efficacy of carvacrol multilayer film and a PET-coated film (PET: Polyethylene Terephthalate) containing lysozyme and lactoferrin using salmon fillet samples. The test revealed that aseptic packaging could significantly reduce food contamination by inhibiting microbial population growth (Rollini et al. 2016). However, packaging companies should use appropriate materials as the efficacy of each depends on many variables (Negi 2012).

In another study, Hanusova et al. (2013) investigated the effectiveness of aseptic packaging technique based on immobilisation of antimicrobial enzymes, which is considered a promising packaging system in the food and beverage industry (Hanušová et al. 2013). It was confirmed that drastic reductions of enzymes activity were evident when the immobilising technique was adopted. Further, the movements and growth of disease-causing microorganisms, including Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas fluorescens, Lactobacillus helveticus, Listeria ivanovii, and Listeria innocua were highly inhibited (Hanušová et al. 2013).

Cerisuelo, Gavara and Hernández-Muñoz (2015) investigated the efficacy of the aseptic packaging technique based on active agents’ release. The study revealed that agents’ efficacy depends on factors such as antimicrobial agents’ retention duration and the rate of release. Moreover, it was realised that microbial exhibiting morphologies depended on physical environment conditions, especially the melting temperatures and the type of polymers used.

Gutiérrez et al. (2011) compared the efficacy of three techniques that are adopted by some aseptic packaging lines, including active packaging, modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), and combinations of both. The comparison revealed that active aseptic has the highest efficacy in shelf life extension and inhibiting microbial growth (Gutiérrez et al. 2011).

Gulhane, Gomashe and Nikure (2015) found that total inhibition of E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa was realised on soft drink packaging and preservation. As such, the study revealed that the use aseptic packaging in the proper manners and under appropriate conditions could result in augmented efficacy.

Othman et al. (2014) carried out a test on TiO2 nanoparticles under different diverse environments, including different types of light and light length. They used inactivate Escherichia coli (E. coli) to investigate how the TiO2 work under different conditions.

The study revealed that environments play significant roles in the activity of TiO2. In addition, it was clear that TiO2 technology has the capability to preserve packaged food.

Othman et al. (2014) demonstrated that TiO2 nanoparticle-coated films have the potential for food and drink aseptic packaging and in other industries that require hygienic packaging (Othman et al. 2014).

Sánchez-Ortega et al. (2014) realised that packaging lines adopt aseptic EFCs, which contribute to meat extended shelf life due to their efficacy in reducing physiochemical changes in meat color, texture, and moisture contents. It was also noted that food types, food sources, polymers used, storage conditions were some of the key factors that affected the efficacy of aseptic EFCs. The study also revealed that aseptic packaging technology included tailoring of coating procedures to meet the food and drink industry prerequisites and extended shelf life while maintaining product quality.

Challenges and pitfalls in aseptic packaging lines

Although aseptic packaging has provided substantial solutions to the food and drink industry, the packaging lines still face crucial challenges and pitfalls in making effective antimicrobial materials (Malhotra, Keshwani & Kharkwal 2015).

Malhotra, Keshwani and Kharkwal (2015) observed that there are discrepancies in real and lab results on the efficacy of most aseptic packaging techniques. The data gaps are evident in the demonstration of product safety, food packaging, and in nanomaterials.

In addition, some techniques were seen to be ineffective. For instance, when microbes with short lag period were adopted, dismal results were obtained. Malhotra, Keshwani and Kharkwal (2015) concluded that there was a great need for packaging lines in the food and drink industry to adopt multidisciplinary and pertinent approaches, especially when selecting the right antiseptic packaging under the right environments for particular food and drink products. Otherwise, adopting packaging techniques without considering all the variables and factors could be fatal (Malhotra, Keshwani & Kharkwal 2015).

Lucera et al. (2012) established that packaging lines face challenges in using some material such as essential oils. The study shows that essential oils have a great potential of revolutionising food packaging. However, the use of such materials is still limited due to aroma and toxicity concerns and issues.

The future of aseptic packaging lines

Antimicrobial packaging will still be important in the food and drink industry in the future. Packaging lines are projected to follow the current aseptic packaging trends while making necessary improvements (Radusin et al. 2013). It is also likely that the demand for microbial packaging will increase in the future. As such, aseptic packaging lines in the food and drink industry will have to be pertinently strategic to meet future antimicrobial packaging demands.

Bastarrachea, Denis-Rohr and Goddard (2016) have observed that new aseptic packaging technologies are always emerging. As such, packaging lines in the food and drink industry are likely to adopt the most effective techniques (Bastarrachea, Denis-Rohr & Goddard 2016).

Vodnar et al. (2015) imply that aseptic packaging lines will have to adopt eco-friendly hygienic packaging systems and materials. As such, aseptic packaging lines must use biodegradable agents, which include edible materials, to foster sustainable development.

Research has also forecast the need for the commercialisation of more sophisticated aseptic packaging systems. Packaging lines, therefore, should be on high alert of the commercialisation of more developed biopolymers to augment efficacy in antimicrobial packaging, while attaining sustainability in food and drink packaging applications (Mangalassary 2012).

Brockgreitens and Abbas (2016) foresee a change in the use of aseptic responsive packaging systems. According to their predictions, aseptic packaging lines are likely to shift from active packaging, which is more popular now, to responsive packaging systems. Some of the factors that will push aseptic packaging lines to responsive techniques include recent advances, customers’ demands, and the presumed efficacy of responsive packaging systems.

Duncan (2011) predicts that silver nanoparticles are likely to be adopted by packaging lines in the future. In addition, nanotechnology is likely to enjoy customer acceptance and, therefore, aseptic packaging lines in the food and drink industry will be compelled to adopt consumer-friendly techniques. Lastly, Duncan (2011) foresees a future where more regulations will be imposed on aseptic packaging lines.

Some of the agents that are likely to be adopted in mass in the future include Nano silver, Nano magnesium oxide, nano copper oxide, nano titanium dioxide, and carbon nanotubes (Saxena, Hardainiyan & Nandy 2015).

Research Objectives

The aim of this research is to analyse current and future practices in aseptic packaging lines in the food and drink industry. Specifically, the research paper will focus on the following objectives.

  • To assess current technologies and technology gaps in aseptic packaging lines in the food and drink industry
  • To determine factors driving aseptic packaging lines in the retail food and drink packaging industry
  • To examine dominant trends and practices shaping the future of aseptic packaging in the food and drink industry
  • To evaluate the extent to which the application of life cycle assessment (LCA) inform aseptic packaging decisions in the food and drink industry

While research has been conducted on aseptic food and drink lines of packaging, new practices and knowledge continue to emerge. This research will seek to analyse and capture new practices and knowledge to help in focusing and directing food and drink aseptic packaging-related practices and the design for further research on aseptic packaging systems. The study shall aim to advance, capture, transfer, and encourage application of knowledge among industry professionals, practitioners, retailers, environmentalists, and consumers among others. The analysis would offer practical solutions for supporting decision-making for aseptic packaging. It is expected that the research outcomes would address the growing concerns and expectations specifically for aseptic packaging in the food and drinking industry. Therefore, the research strives to add new knowledge on aseptic packaging, identify opportunities, and challenges while advancing possible future scenarios related to common best practices that address packaging in the food and drink industry.

The study will achieve these objectives through a thorough review and collection of knowledge from different current peer reviewed journal articles and primary research. Although several studies have focused on packaging, food and drink aseptic packaging has not been given thorough direct analyses. Results achieved through these objectives would provide insights into aseptic packaging industry and inform future research.

Research Question

  1. What are current technologies and technology gaps in aseptic packaging lines in the food and drink industry?
  2. What factors drive aseptic packaging lines in the retail food and drink packaging industry?
  3. Are there any dominant trends and practices shaping the future of aseptic packaging in the food and drink industry?
  4. To what extent is the application of life cycle assessment (LCA) to inform aseptic packaging used to influence decisions in the food and drink industry?

Research Method

To realise these objectives, the study will adopt exploratory, analytical, and descriptive methods. These methods would ensure that relevant information is obtained from the target audience, including manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. The research is elaborate in design because aseptic packaging line practices in the food and drink industry is a function of multiple factors, such as technologies, environmental concerns, health factors, consumer preferences, convenience, costs, material availability, and differentiation among others. Hence, cross section primary data will be gathered on different aspects of aseptic packaging lines.

Both primary and secondary research will be conducted to gather data that relate to aseptic packaging lines in the food and drink industry. The primary research will involve a mixed-methods approach involving both qualitative and quantitative techniques to gather data.

The study will be designed to run for a period of three years to allow enough time for thorough design of data collection instruments, pilot studies, final data collection and analyses.

It is expected that sufficient sample size will be obtained from manufacturers, retailers, and consumers for both food and drink. It is expected that geographical areas vital to the study will be covered.

Detailed survey questionnaires will be administered through e-mail or face-to-face interviews based on the distance of the selected participants. The researcher will supervise every aspect of data collection to guarantee their quality by scrutinising questionnaires for any errors or missing data.

Secondary research will involve a carefully review of available literature on aseptic packaging lines in the food and drink industry. Key search words will be adopted for the study. They would include aseptic packaging technologies, trends, driving factors, future of aseptic packaging, life cycle assessment and other vital key words. Further, only key words and phrases will be applied to search articles in different databases.

Research Implications

Major issues that will be explored in this research would be relevant to a wide range of practitioners and professionals in the packaging lines of the food and drink industry, as well as other interest groups, such as environmentalists, industry regulators, and consumers. Professionals and practitioners will be able to acquire new insights regarding the application of new best technologies and practices in aseptic packaging lines and other applications in the food and drink industry. Packaging companies and regulators will find trends and possible future practices from both academics and industry leaders’ perspectives. Moreover, environmentalists, food watchdogs, and other interested stakeholders will find this research useful and rely on the findings to address some critical issues in aseptic packaging. Finally, researchers wishing to conduct further studies and acquire new knowledge will also find the study relevant.

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