Over the years, consumer behavior has changed massively. The impact of COVID-19 has stoked consumers’ hygiene concerns. Furthermore, the ability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to sit for longer durations on surfaces has fueled demand for sterile and antiviral packaging, considering the antibacterial properties they exhibit.
Global demand for sterile, antiviral and contaminant-free packaging solutions is growing at a swift rate. With stakeholders becoming highly health-conscious, various industries — ranging from food and beverages to pharmaceuticals — are investing in advanced packaging solutions. According to the ESOMAR-certified, market research and intelligence firm Future Market Insights, the global market for sterile and antiviral packaging is poised to register a CAGR of 5.3% from 2022 to 2032, valued at $25 billion by the end of 2022.
Factors like clean and hygienic handling of products in the whole supply chain process are highly amplified, potentially resulting in a whole new era of antiviral packaging, leading to the launch of various advanced technologies. In this blog, we will discuss the advent of sterile and antiviral packaging and the ability of advanced technologies to unlock growth opportunities for the market players.
How is the healthcare industry propelling the growth of the sterile and antiviral packaging market?
When talking about healthcare and antiviral and sterile packaging, the geriatric population is one of the major driving factors. The aging population, driven by a declining fertility rate and increase in life expectancy, represents an increased need for medical devices, leading to the demand for sterile and antiviral packaging. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the elderly population will double to approximately 25% of the total population of the U.S. by 2060. In addition, statistics suggest that older adults account for almost one-third of the total healthcare consumption.
In the healthcare industry, bulk inventory and stocks are important components of minimizing acquisition costs. In November 2021, Becton, Dickinson and Company opened a new manufacturing facility in Zaragoza, Spain, to support the growth of prefilled syringes in the region. Furthermore, the company announced its plans to expand by the end of 2030 to meet high sustainability and eco-efficiency standards by smartly incorporating intelligent technologies inspired by Industry 4.0.
In this technologically driven world, the healthcare sector has evolved massively. For instance, consider the introduction of biologics, which have gained wide popularity in treating chronic disorders such as diabetes and arthritis. Studying the complexities of the biologics manufacturing process, a high level of expertise from amongst biologic manufacturers goes into innovative packaging.
For instance, in October 2021, WuXi Biologics, a global company with leading open-access biologics technology platforms, announced the launch of the GMP operation of its new drug product facility located in Wuxi, China, which is the eighth operational drug product facility in the global network of WuXi Biologics. The facility includes the company’s first fully automated vial packaging line. The packaging line was specially designed to meet U.S. FDA, EMA and China’s NMPA GMP requirements. Furthermore, the new technologies include features like anti-forgery drug tracking and automatic intelligent labeling and packaging with the motive to provide customized end-to-end manufacturing services for clients.
Latest food and beverage packaging: Sterile and antiviral
The global food and beverage industry has been rising for the last few years because the developing economies are investing in advanced technologies. Top players operating in the food and beverage industry are proactively working on publicly communicating about their packaging choices. Brands have been showing an increased interest in integrating advanced technologies in developing sustainable packaging materials.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that antimicrobial technology be built into plastic and textiles used in food packaging to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, mildew, fungi, discoloration and odor. However, as the companies are working towards identifying suitable materials, antiviral and sterile packaging is emerging as the most effective one.
Mounting concerns revolving around food exposure to germs and contaminants generate a very high demand for antiviral packaging formats. Subsequently, R&D activities across industries are going on to ensure the safety and integrity of products. For instance, in March 2021, an international group of scientists from India and Russia created edible food films for packaging fruits, vegetables, poultry, meat and seafood. Films consist of natural ingredients, they are safe for health and the environment. In addition, films are water-soluble and dissolve by almost 90% in 24 hours. Furthermore, natural antiviral agents can be added to the films that also extend the shelf life of food. Garlic, turmeric and ginger contain compounds that may prevent the spread of viruses.
Sterilization technologies to unwrap exponential potential
Pharmaceutical industry is one of the key industries exploring the potential of sterile and active packaging. The industry has been making ample efforts to meet the standards and expectations of modern day healthcare professionals as well as the consumers. Some of the conventional and most popular pharmaceutical solutions including blister packs and pharmaceutical bottles are now increasingly incorporated with digital technology. Such packaging solutions with applied digital technology are mostly created for the advanced functionality for end-user and patient convenience.
Keeping this in view, in 2021, Amcor announced the launch of a specialty multi chamber pouch for drug–device combination products. Combination medical devices demand high performance packaging materials to ensure the sterility and shelf life of the product. Amcor’s innovation is a single, multi-compartment pouch with a breathable membrane separating the two chambers, in a safer and simpler design. The new Amcor dual chamber pouch uses a high strength foil laminate that protects from light, moisture and oxygen ingress to support shelf life and drug efficacy. One side is peelable and allows aseptic presentation and easy access to the device. The second non-peelable chamber houses the desiccant sachet or other scavenging technologies. The separate chambers eliminate any risk of the desiccant encountering the sterile device and sterile field.
Advanced sterilization technologies such as microwave-assisted thermal sterilization (MATS) and pressure-assisted thermal stabilization (PATS) are becoming highly mainstream. Furthermore, with the rise of intelligent packaging solutions and the increasing consumers’ desire for nutritious foods, these processes are being commercialized in some major economies of the world, such as Japan and Europe.
MATS (microwave-assisted thermal sterilization) system comprises four pressurized sections. These include preheating, microwave heating, holding and cooling. At every stage, the water goes through a temperature-controlled system. Later, the sealed food packages are transported through these sections containing water. This minimized time-temperature requirement helps produce healthier foods with comparatively cleaner labels.
Recently, in March 2022, 915 Labs announced plans for the first full-scale Microwave Assisted Thermal Sterilization (MATS) system that’s on order for installation at a North American food company processing facility. MATS is an alternative to retort processing used for canned foods and other products and packaging. The company is known globally for launching the pilot-scale versions of 915 Labs’ microwave sterilization system, called the MATS-B (for a batch), which are already in contract with processing and packaging companies, AmeriQual, Evansville, IN, and Wornick Foods, Cincinnati, OH.
Another emerging technology turning out to be one of the key product differentiators is the NO2-based sterilization technology. The process involves using conventional ethylene oxide (EtO) gas to sterilize medical devices before they are out for distribution to healthcare facilities. Technology plays a major role in preventing the sterilant from reaching pharmaceutical products. This is made possible by reducing the concentration and residual levels during the process.
Sustainability is emerging as one of the most prominent trends in the packaging industry. Consumers and manufacturers are shifting to eco-friendly options. The resilience of packaging of food and medicines is on the frontline to combat any issue that may arise. Furthermore, sterile and antiviral packaging is gaining wide popularity in various industries such as healthcare and FMCG.
The healthcare systems are picking pace and ensuring optimal safety and security of drugs and medical supplies. These trends drive demand for advanced packaging technologies. Furthermore, looking forward, consumer sentiment regarding the consumption of food, beverages and medicines is likely to become more concerned with safety and contamination risks, which is likely to boost the demand for sterile and antiviral packaging exponentially.
Aditi Basu is the marketing head at Future Market Insights. Aditi is the Marketing Head at Future Market Insights (FMI), ESOMAR-certified market research and consulting Market Research Company. The award-winning firm is headquartered in Dubai, with offices in the U.S., U.K., and India. The award-winning firm is headquartered in Dubai, with offices in the U.S., U.K., and India. MarketNgage is the Market Research Subscription Platform from FMI that assists stakeholders in obtaining in-depth research across industries, markets and niche segments. You can connect with Aditi on LinkedIn.
Future Market Insights (FMI), is an ESOMAR-certified market research and consulting market research company. FMI is a leading provider of market intelligence and consulting services, serving clients in over 150 countries; its market research reports and industry analysis help businesses navigate challenges and make critical decisions with confidence and clarity amidst breakneck competition.