F&B Confex talks AI for food and beverage optimization

The 9th Innopack for food packaging and design optimization

Marzhan Thanewala facilitating Kirti Soni, Ratnesh Srivastav, Rajeev Gupta and Shubham Maheshwari. Photo PSA

The 9th edition of the Innopack F&B Confex at Gurugram discussed at length the implementation of Artificial Intelligence in food and beverage nutritional measurement and how it can be effective in the field of packaging as well. The emphasis on reducing, reusing, and recycling packaging was made by several panelists who asserted that a ban on single-use plastic is not the solution to any of the pre-existing problems.

The consumer’s lifestyle has changed over the last few years. The demand for packaged food has evolved and increased with ready-to-cook meals, ready-to-eat food packets, and creative packaging. According to the organizers’ India’s packaging industry is expected to grow by about 27% between 2021 and 2026. The role of packaging is therefore both evolving and becoming a more critical differentiator for brands as they scale up and add more value to capture a share of the steadily rising market demand. 

Probodh Halde during his session on regulations and guidelines for packaging

The potential of artificial intelligence in the food industry is yet to be fully appreciated. Prabodh Halde, head of regulatory affairs, Marico said, “Whenever we talk about packaging for food and beverages the first ideas I get are banana and coconut. These examples say a lot about how perfect food packaging can be and with the implementation of AI, we can possibly make packaging come closer to these ideals. It will be an evolutionary process that will go hand in hand with the aim to reduce single-use plastic from the equation.

“As an industry, we can expect perfect packaging for food that not only looks good on the surface but will actually preserve the contents inside. Design optimization will also be an area of focus as 21% of waste is comprised of single-use plastic waste such as shampoo and ketchup sachets of Rs 1 – an optimization that we in the food and packaging industry, need to work towards. The alternative method needs to reduce the single-use plastic waste right at the source.”

The growth of the packaging market in India is primarily driven by the food and beverage industries. Increasing investment in the food processing industries and countering the wastage of agri-crops creates scope for the expansion of both food process and packaging. It is now essential that the food and beverage processing and packaging industries embrace innovative methods and raw materials, to reduce the amount of non-recyclable waste generated.

The Indian government guidelines have also emphasized the urgency of reducing waste and moving towards sustainable and recyclable packaging solutions with financial penalties for non-compliance with its February and June 2022 waste management rules. In one of the afternoon sessions on Sustainable Packaging Materials and Technology, Marzban Thanevala, VP of sales and marketing, innovation, and business development at Constantia Flexibles said, “The packaging sphere of our economy will need a thorough revamp, everything we have known and done so far has to be reinvented, to be more sensitive to ecology and to face the challenge of sustainability the time to act is now. Waste collection is also a problem hindering the recycling chain – collection and segregation at the source will definitely propel the industry towards a better route but until strictly adhered to, the reforms are just a fantasy.”

In the coming decade, India will focus on transitioning the packaging industry towards sustainability and smart solutions. The discussion is improving and looking at technologies such as AI not as a threat but as an opportunity since the consumption of packaging in the country is so low compared to that of the ‘advanced’ economies. 

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As we present our 2024 publishing plan, India’s real GDP growth for the financial year ending 31 March 2024 will exceed 6%. The packaging industry growth will match the GDP growth in volume terms and surpass it by at least 3% in terms of nominal growth allowing for price inflation in energy, raw materials, consumables, and capital equipment.

The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 45% over the past four years. With orders in place, we expect another 20% capacity addition in 2024 and 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels are grown similarly. As the consumption story returns over the next six months, we expect demand to return and exceed the growth trajectory of previous years. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – and as shown by our analytics, our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

For responsible and sustainable packaging, with its attendant regulations and compliances, there is significant headroom to grow in India and the region. Our coverage includes the entire packaging supply chain – from concept to shelf and to waste collection, sorting, and recycling.

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The coming year looks to be an up year in this region, and this is the right time to plan your participation and marketing communication – in our rich and highly targeted business platform with human resources on the ground. Share your thoughts and plans and to inspire and mobilize our editorial and advertising teams!

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– Naresh Khanna (25 October 2023)

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