Intricacies of Packaging

Bakery products are gaining popularity in India due to their health benefits as well as pleasant taste. Providing convenience and affordability to consumers, the demand for bakery products has been rising at a rapid rate. According to the latest report by IMARC Group, the bakery market reached a value of $7.22 billion in 2018 and is projected to exceed $ 12 billion by 2024 expanding at a CAGR of 9.3% during 2019-2024. But bakery products require proper packaging for their shelf life. Ashok Malkani finds that there are ample opportunities for entrepreneurs to enter the packaging sector of the industry and points out some essential requirements, which the new entrant would need, to succeed in this venture.

A well presented item is what, normally, catches the customer’s eye. This is all the more relevant in the case of baked products. Attractive packaging is, thus, essential for your business if you want the customers to turn into repeat buyers. Besides the quality and variety of your food its presentation, or branding and packaging, should be always professional. While your branding will allow customers to associate your products with the quality of the product, your packaging is what would initially attract the customer into picking it off the shelf for closer inspection.     

There can, thus, be no doubt that packaging is of great importance in the final choice of the consumer because it involves appeal, convenience and information, besides branding. 

Importance of packaging of bakery products assumes greater significance when one realizes that these products are meant for use for a considerable period of duration f r o m the day of its making. Bakery products are an important source of nutrients viz. energy, protein, iron, calcium and several vitamins. Commercial bread and biscuits contain around 7.5% to 7.8% protein respectively. Biscuits, which are easy to use during travel, or at home, because of its availability in variety of pack sizes, are amongst the lowest cost processed food in the country when compared to other Indian sweets and salted snacks. 

They also offer substantial energy. Thus biscuits have an important role to play as a diet supplement for both adults and children. It is no longer viewed as a luxury tea-time snack but essential daily food component for an average Indian household. 

The bakery industry, production of which has been increasing steadily, is among the largest processed food industries in India. The annual production of bakery products, which includes bread, biscuits, pastries, cakes, buns, rusk etc., is estimated to be in excess of 3 million tones and is valued at Rs 49.5 billion, making it the third largest market in Asia Pacific only after Japan and Australia. The production of bread and biscuits in the country, both in the organised and unorganised sectors, is estimated to be around 0.44 million tonnes and 11 million tonnes respectively. The cake and pastry market estimated at 0.4 million tonnes, is a fast growing market with volume growth of 16 per cent. 

Packaging plays a significant role in increasing shelf life in bakery products. Besides, it also prevents mechanical damage, helps in marketing by providing information about the product’s nutrition value and displaying food safety related warnings. Packaging that can extend shelf life, monitor condition of products, indicate that condition, or stabilize product condition for extended periods is called as Active packaging. There are now many examples of how a confectionery, bread or biscuit maker can benefit f r o m Active and Intelligent Packaging (A&IP) technologies.

Active packaging is a name given to a large group of packaging modifications which improve shelf life of foods. This is done by modifying environment around the food to prevent or delay growth of microorganisms. One way of doing this is by using oxygen absorbers which generate carbon dioxide replacing the removed oxygen. These absorbers allow natural and safe preservation of the food’s original taste and freshness, extending their shef life without addition of preservatives.   

One of the key areas of research for packaging of bread, cakes and biscuits is into the antimicrobial properties of nano-composites. This is particularly important as consumers turn away f r o m products containing preservatives. The Nanopack technology consists in the encapsulation of essential oils with a naturally-occurring antimicrobial activity into Halloysite Nanotubes (HNTs), which are subsequently mixed with polymers to make packaging films. 

Scope for Packaging  

According to a report by Zion Market Research the global food packaging market was valued at about $ 292.91 billion in 2018 and is expected to touch about $ 423.27 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of around 5.4% between 2019 and 2025. The report states that the demand for packaging would increase because of the growing number of health conscious consumers and their preference for packaged products as compared to openly sold food items. 

This would be relevant to the snack and bakery products and entrepreneurs who are keen to enter packaging segment of the bakery industry, thus, have ample scope. They must, however, note that various developments are being witnessed in packaging standards and smart packaging techniques designed to improve the quality of food.

The Grand View Research, in its report on global food market 2018-2025 has stated that in 2017 Bakery and confectionery market was the highest segment and, combined with dairy products, it formed nearly half the food market. 

The bakery packaging market is relied upon to be driven by expanding sales of bread shop items, around the world. The demand for bakery items is credited to different factors, for instance, expanding the time span of usability of easy to make food items, chaotic ways of life, and swift urbanisation. The development of organized retail is one of the main anticipated aspects that would intensify the demand for bakery packaging. This is because packaging provides the products the advantage of expanding the timeframe of realistic usability. 

Most makers of bakery items are slanted towards luxury packaging, particularly amid the festival seasons to upgrade their brand image, as luxury packaging helps clients to review the specific brand. Adaptable plastic is picking up footing in the bakery packaging market because of different properties, for instance, light weight, which is relied upon to fuel the demand for adaptable plastic sooner rather than later.

Classification of Bakery Products  

There are several aspects of the industry which have to be understood if an entrepreneur is planning to enter the packaging market for bakery industry. One of the basic requirements is to know about the different categories of bakery products and their moisture content.

Bakery products could be classified into three categories thus:

They can also be classified as Dry bakery goods and moist bakery goods. 

The dry baked goods comprise of Soft biscuits, hard biscuits, cookies, crackers, fancy biscuits, cream wafer biscuits. 

The moist products are: Bread (Sweet bread, Milk bread, Masala bread, Garlic bread, Fruit bread etc.), Buns (Fruit buns, hamburger buns, dinner rolls, crisp bread, pizza), Cakes, pastries, doughnuts, muffins etc. 

In short, bakery products comprise of cakes, bread and buns (including: brown bread, garlic bread, milk bread, multi grain bread sweet bread, pita bread etc) rusk toast (milk rusk, suji rusk, wheat rusk, milk toast, cardamom rusk etc.), pastries, muffins and cup cakes, pies, waffles, doughnuts, pudding, caramel custard, cinnamon rolls, etc. 

The concern of most bakeries is physical spoilage (due to moisture loss or staling), chemical spoilage (due to rancidity) and mirobiological spoilage (yeast mould, bacterial growth).

Elements to be understood

One of the main points that an entrepreneur entering bakery packaging segment needs to know is the characteristics of different products. The dry bakery products are fragile and have a low moisture content (<6%), low water activity (Aw = 0.30) and are highly hygroscopic.  

Biscuits, which are considered to be a dry bakery product, have a low moisture content, high fat level and highly fragile, and have thus to be protected f r o m these three aspects.  

Since the biscuits consists of wheat flour, fat and shortening, sugar, salt and flavouring agents they are pre-dominantly sensitive to water vapour interchanges (moisture) and oxygen reactions. They generally have an initial moisture content of 2-3% equilibrating to 10-15% RH. The critical moisture level f r o m the point of loss of crispness varies between 4 to 6%. Since these are moisture sensitive products, water vapour transmission rate of the packaging material used is of importance as it is closely associated with drying, physical structure and protective action against oxidation.

These products not only become brittle and hard but also develop oxidative rancidity at very low moisture contents. Another requirement due to high fat is the prevention of rancidity. When fat gets exposed to moisture and atmosphere, it gets oxidised and this results in rancidity and lowering of shelf-life. Hence the packaging material must be grease resistant to prevent seepage of fat and staining of the pack and have low oxygen permeability to prevent oxidation and rancidity of the fat. 

It may also be mentioned that since light is detrimental to colours, opaque packaging material must be used. 

There are two wrapping styles for biscuits: 

Enfolding and pillow wrapping. In enfold wrapping, a portion of biscuits standing on edge is roll–wrapped or fold wrapped into a heat sealable film. The longitudinal packet seal is sealed tightly in a fin seal style. The packet ends are folded neatly and heat-sealed. Due to the neat and tight surrounding of the film, this packet gives utmost mechanical protection and acceptable barrier properties for hard and semi -hard biscuits and many other cracker types.

Pillow pack wrapping is used for smaller biscuit packs. In addition, pillow pack wrapping is used for bigger packets with products standing on edge (Slug wrapping) as well. The disadvantage of pillow pack slug wrapping is its limited mechanical product protection due to its rather loose packing.  

Moist bakery products like breads and cakes, which have a high moisture content (>12%), supple texture and high water activity between 0.6 to 0.85 with low resistance, have a comparatively lower shelf life. 

One of the undesirable changes during storage of bread is the loss of moisture, which results in staling. The packaging material must, thus, possess effective moisture barrier properties. The inner portion of the bread tends to dry out rapidly and become harder, while the crust tends to become soggy under moist conditions. 

The inner portion of bread has equilibrium humidity in the range of 90%, hence it tends to dry out rapidly and becomes harder. The crust however, has low equilibrium humidity and it tends to become soggy under moist conditions. A too good moisture barrier would promote mould growth and make the bread soft. On the other hand, a poor barrier would result in staling. Hence the packaging material must conserve the moisture content, prevent staling and keep the bread in a fresh condition as long as possible. 

In short, the basic requirements of a package for bakery products are: 

  • Water vapour permeability of packages 
  • Oxygen exchange f r o m within and outside a package 
  • Aroma impermeability characteristics of packaging materials
  • Resistance to seepage of fats and oils
  • Protection against deteriorative visible and ultra violate radiation
  • Good printability and appearance
  • Physical and mechanical protection to the products against shocks, crushing and vibrations
  • Compatibility and safety of the packages

Packaging Materials

For a raw recruit in the field of packaging it is also essential to know about the different packaging materials for bakery products. 

The most commonly used packaging substance is flexible material. These are used as wrappers, pre-formed pouches or form-fill pouches. The oldest flexible film to be used was cellophane because of its excellent gas barrier properties and heat sealability. It has become less popular today due to other cheaper products, with better qualities, being introduced in the market. 

Another material, which is widely used, is Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene (OPP) film. For higher quality products OPP combinations like OPP/PE, OPP/PET are used. 

For less demanding applications OPP monofilm is used while for higher quality products, duplex OPP or OPP combinations (pearlised or metallised ) are used. Today most of the biscuits are packed in flexible laminates of composite structures. Earlier, these packages were difficult to open but today manufacturers are providing tear tape at the edge for ease of opening. 

Thermo formed plastic trays, made of polystyrene or PVC, with multiple cavities are used for packaging assorted biscuits, pastries, cookies, etc.  

Paper based material is used for baking trays, cake boxes, bake oven paper, grease proof paper, TDL poster paper etc. 

Baking trays protect and cook products like breads and cakes. Paper based baking trays, due to the rising environment consciousness, are being preferred over plastic or foil trays. . Made f r o m corrugated, solid board or folding carton, baking trays are made f r o m a renewable resource and can be recycled depending upon liners selected. Suitable for direct food contact, the trays are heat resistant and can be used safely in ovens.  

Plain cardboard Boxes are often used for cakes, whilst in transit f r o m the bakery to the consumer. An interesting innovative cake box is called ‘Torten Boy’ consisting of a tray and lid. This box can be opened f r o m two sides allowing the cake to be removed horizontally rather than upwards. This avoids any difficulty in removing the cake f r o m the box and ensures there is no damage. For large premium cakes, that require maximum protection, corrugated cake boxes are used.

Bake oven paper, which comes in variants of 40-45 GSM is used as a tray liner for flat baking application. 

Grease proof paper, in variants of 40-60 GSM, is made f r o m pure wood pulp. It not only provides excellent resistance and oil hold properties but also prevents penetration of oil and fats. 

Plastic, though there is a drive against it by environmentalists, is still used for food packaging. This is because major types of plastic resins used in packaging are recyclable.  

Preservation of food in cans has been popular since the 1800s. Because of their long shelf-life, metals cans have enabled use of products f r o m remote areas and even non-seasonal produce. They are popular for packaging of chocolates and cookies, which are soft to handle. 

However, it may be added that metal cans and glass bottles have lost markets to rigid and flexible plastics and printed monocartons. Flexible packaging has replaced rigid packaging.   

Technological Developments 

Several technological developments have taken place, which have to be taken note of. One of them is Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) which extends the shelf life, preserves quality, and improves overall cost effectiveness. This is achieved by altering the relative proportions of the surrounding atmospheric gases.

CO2 and N2 are the most commonly used gases in gas packaging of bakery products. Carbon dioxide is soluble in water and fat, producing carbonic acid and lowering the pH of the product, resulting in changes in the flavour. Nitrogen is also very effective but only if the residual oxygen percentage is low. Mould growth can be effectively controlled by packaging the product in a modified atmosphere of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N2). The antimicrobial effect may be lost if the headspace oxygen concentration increases by as little as 0.5-1 %.

Typical products that benefit f r o m MAP are tortilla wraps, baguette, bagels, pita, naan bread and other types of bread. These products have relatively low water content, the type of microbes that can cause spoilage are mainly moulds, as bacteria prefer more water. These moulds are aerobic – they need oxygen f r o m the air for their growth. Excluding oxygen and using a high proportion of carbon dioxide – up to 100% – is a highly effective way of significantly increasing the shelf life of these bread products.

The integrity of the packaging materials is especially important for bread products. Typically A pre-baked bread product packaged in an atmosphere exclusively of carbon dioxide would see an increase in shelf life f r o m around five days to 20 days when stored at room temperature.


Packaging of bakery products is very important, because these products are meant for use a long time f r o m the day of its making. Marketing of the goods depends, to a large extent, on attractive and professional packaging. This will not only help in keeping the product fresher for a longer duration but also attract the customer and make him into a repeat buyer of your goods. The bakeries are now paying more attention to packaging. With the demand for packaging, thus, increasing there is ample scope for an enterprising entrepreneur to venture into bakery packaging business. 

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