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Sustainability, environmental protection, novel methods crucial
Saturday, 27 May, 2023, 15 : 00 PM [IST]
Lithiyal R, Shwetha, Chidanand D V
In recent decades, Asian countries' high economic growth rates, young and growing populations, industrialisation and open markets, increasing disposable income and urbanisation have all multiplied, fostering the meteoric rise of their industries. As a result, food processing and preservation techniques have greater demand among the population, as the hassle of day-to-day work needs more time to make wholesome food and beverages and for the prolonged utility of food to consume as fresh. This results from bringing out emerging technologies in the food processing and packaging market. The dried processed food market in the Asia-Pacific during 2022 was worth US$61.41 billion and is estimated to reach US$ 81.03 billion by 2028. Drying is a preservation technique, thereby increasing the shelf-life, having unique flavour & taste, and retaining the nutritional value of food items.

Asian countries are the top food-producing countries in the world. China is first ranked in fruit and vegetable production, followed by India. India is the single-largest milk producer in the world, with similar stature in meat, poultry, and marine production; 90% of the rice production is from Asia. In this scenario, food processing and packaging industries play a crucial role in ensuring the availability of safe, nutritious, and convenient food products for consumers.

Processing and packaging technologies include conventional, novel methods for food processing and non-thermal methods for food production which emphasise environmental protection, and this article focuses on how far the Asian food processing and packaging industry is developed and explains the need for sustainability, environmental protection, novel methods in the food processing and packaging sector.

History of the Asian food industry:
Chinese and Indians, along with cultivating rice, wheat, and millet they developed pickling, drying and fermentation techniques.The spice trade in India has a crucial effect on the Indian food industry. It was when industrialisation and modernisation in the early 19th century that the food industry boomed in both the Western world and the Asian continent. Initially, it was started to fulfil the need for food for growing populations, and now it is a form of globalisation, cultural exchange, and a multi-billion industry. The Asian food industry has its impact on the Western world, the flavours, blending of Chinese and Indian flavours in Indo-Chinese cuisine or the incorporation of Japanese ingredients and techniques in Western cooking. Today, the food industry in Asia continues to evolve, adapting to changing consumer preferences, technological advancements, and sustainability concerns. Traditional culinary practices coexist with modern innovations, creating a vibrant and diverse food landscape across the continent.

Technological Advancements in Processing and Packaging:
In the era of industrialisation and modernisation food industry has also boomed. The last three industrialisations focused on conventional techniques for processing, including drying, fermentation, freezing, canning, baking, and frying, along with automation, data analysis, high-speed filling machines, automated packaging systems, and some of the advanced food preservation techniques, supply chain management techniques are introduced and developed to the extent. Now the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, is going on, which in terms of the food industry includes precision fermentation, blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, Internet of Things. The main aim of the Asian food sector is sustainability along with efficient production and to attain market supremacy. 

The Food Packaging:

Food packaging is essential for keeping food items fresh and ensuring they arrive at their destination without losing their original flavour or quality. In addition, it preserves the contents from contaminants and moisture, prevents spills and tampering, and helps food goods maintain their form and quality. The food packaging market in Asia-Pacific is categorised by Material Type (plastic, paperboard, glass, metal and laminates), Product Type (Bottles and Containers, Films and Wraps, Cans, Cartons & Pouches, Caps and Closures), End User type (Meat and Poultry, Fruits and Vegetables, Dairy Product and Confectionery) and Country (Japan, South Korea, China, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Rest of Asia-Pacific). According to Data Bridge Market Research analysis, from 2022 to 2029, the market is predicted to increase at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 7.2%, from 2021's US$2,377.40 million to 2029's US$ 4,141.99 million. One of the major sectors in India, food processing accounted for 32% of the nation's total food market and was rated fifth in terms of production, consumption, export, and anticipated growth.

Demand for Food Packaging Industries in Asian Countries:

The food packaging market is also driven by consumers' increasing desire for processed foods due to the growing working population, increased disposable incomes, busy lifestyles, and population dynamics shifting from rural to urban regions. Additionally, in a nation like India, where the need for online meal ordering is rising, packed food boxes are becoming increasingly popular in the food packaging industry. In February 2022, one of the meal delivery services, Zomato, said that during the past five years, the monthly active food delivery restaurants and transactional clients had increased by an average of six and 13 times.

Flexible packaging of food items is now possible through the new technologies that have emerged, including active packaging, intelligent packaging, and engineering science. In addition, manufacturers have taken on biodegradable packaging that can be recycled, rejuvenated, and reused to create environmentally friendly packaging. Next-generation packaging trends would segment into susceptors, RFID tags, NFC tags, sensors & output devices, coding & markings, and others.

India's pharmaceutical and food packaging industries are the main drivers of flexible packaging industry growth. Regular rigid packaging consumers have been switching to flexible packaging in recent years. Industry sources claim that flexible packaging's attractive appearance, affordability, and durability are the leading causes. Consumer demand for easy packaging and reasonably sized laminated packages of packaged goods is one of the main factors behind the growth of flexible packaging in India.

According to the Flexible Packaging Industries Association, flexible packaging accounts for more than 60% of the market and is mainly used for food. The flexible packaging business is multiplying due to its ability to integrate innovative solutions for the numerous packaging problems it observed.

Towards sustainability...

The Asian continent has the most populous nations, including India, China, and Indonesia, with rapid population growth and immense natural resources. Efficiently utilising these both is challenging; the food sector directly connects these two entities. Therefore, the use of technologies that leads to sustainability needs to be adopted, such as waste reduction and management, responsible sourcing and fair trade, promoting plant-based and alternative proteins which cut down animal husbandry practices, which in turn reduces greenhouse emission, and use of non-thermal technologies or green technologies, Sustainable packaging, and towards sustainable food production precision fermentation is the promising technique which uses microbes to produce food components like proteins, carbohydrates from the waste matter or any other resources like all these technologies need to be developed to attain utmost sustainability.

Food Processing & Packaging Industries Overview:
A few of the major industries operating in the Asia-Pacific packaging market are Bemis Company, Sealed Air Corporation, Ampacet Corporation, LCR Hallcrest Ltd., Mondi Group, Smurfit Kappa Group, WestRock Company, Tetra Pack, R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company, Sonoco Products Company, Smart Packaging, Amcor Plc, Constantia Flexibles, KlöcknerPentaplast, Graham Packaging Company, Avery Dennison Corporation, DS Smith, and Cryolog.

Key players in dried processed food markets in the Asia Pacific are Nestle, Unilever, Acecook Vietnam, Campbell, Heinz, Krafts and Conagro Foods.

(The authors are from Industry Academia Cell, National Institute of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management – Thanjavur [NIFTEM-T]. Pudukkottai Road, Thanjavur Tamil Nadu)
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