Top 10 Topics of Japanese Packaging Industry in 2015

1. Release of world first functional cellulose nanofiber-based products

A paper manufacturing company succeeded in the practical application of sheets with a high deodorant effect using cellulose nanofibers, which are based on the chemical processing of a highly nanoized biomass material from wood fibers (pulps). Cellulose nanofibers are derived from plant fibers and therefore characterized by light weight and low environmental burdens for production and disposal. They are expected to develop in the packaging material industry because of excellent properties including high modulus of elasticity, high stretchability associated with the change in temperature, and high barrier performance against oxygen.

2. Wave of consumption by inbound tourists and creation of new market

Tourists visiting Japan doubled in the past 3 years due to the Japan sightseeing boom in Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong and relaxation of the visa requirements for Chinese tourists. They have a tremendous buying power and created a new market of inbound tourists. They prefer to Japanese food, drug, medical goods, and cosmetics because of safety. Thanks to the inbound tourists, the sales of these products have markedly increased and the sales of the packaging materials for the products have also increased by 1.5 times over the past year.

3DGeneral agreement of TPP negotiation

In October 2015, 12 countries of the Pacific Rim generally concluded the economic partnership agreement including the gradual elimination of tariffs for 95% of traded goods and other various economic rules. This partnership creates a giant economic block accounting for 40% of the world GDP and is expected to serve as the world standard for trade and economic rules. The Japanese government estimates that TPP provides an economic effect of 3.2 trillion yen. TPP will provide consumers with price and choice merits. Business companies and people will have a benefit of easier access to member countries and a risk of increased competition at the same time.

4. Enforcement of new food labeling system

The Food Labeling Act that established a system integrating the food labeling stipulations of the Food Sanitation Act, JAS Act, and Health Promotion Act was enforced on April 1, 2015. Furthermore, a new system of gFoods with functional claimsh was created, resulting in the increase in packages contributing to product differentiation. Previously, the systems for claiming specific health functions were limited to gfoods for specified health useh that require the authorization by the government and gfoods with nutrient function claimsh that have to meet national standards. The new system of gfoods with functional claimsh will have an effect on product package.

5. Establishment of Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) on Environmental Friendliness of Packages

The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry established a Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) on the environmental friendliness of packages. Since the enforcement of Containers and Packaging Recycling Act in 1995, industries have made efforts to reduce the environmental burden of packages. With this social demand, the ministry examined the procedures and evaluation methods for minimizing the environmental burden of packages by dividing them into 6 parts. The new JIS covers the first 3 parts: Part 1 (General requirements), Part 2 (Optimization of packaging systems), and Part 3 (Reuse).

6. Accelerated world efforts to solve microplastics problem

The declaration of the G7 Elmau Summit in June 2015 included the recognition of marine litter, especially plastic litter as a world issue and commitment of G7 to the activities and solutions for the marine litter problem. Plastic packages and containers flowing into the sea are broken into fragments of 5 mm or lower, which adsorb and concentrate harmful substances, giving adverse effects on human beings through the food chain. Manufacturers of plastic containers or packages or those of contents requiring plastic containers or packages will be strictly requested to promote 3R, put biodegradable plastics into practical use, and reduce the use of plastics.

7. Release of new containers with improved functions for food industry

Following soy sources, cooking oils have employed two-layer sealing bottles for preserving freshness. Grated cheese products, which have been supplied in cylindrical molded containers, are now supplied in standing pouches with a plug, which allow consumers to loosen solidified cheese in the container. Recappable spout pouches have been employed for dairy cream containers to increase convenience and prolong shelf life. Small volume bottles with a cap have been employed for flour because they are easy to grasp and useful in sprinkling flour and measuring an exact amount of flour to meet the needs of single persons and the elderly.

8. Development of disposable paper container/emergency magnesium air battery

At the Great East Japan Earthquake, many people could not get information because cellular phones ran out of charge. To overcome the situation, battery and packaging material manufacturers jointly developed a magnesium air battery for emergency, which provides electricity to many cellular phones just by putting water in the container. Thanks to the technologies for paper containers for liquid, the new battery container can be easily disposed of after use.

9. Application of cutting edge technology, augmented reality (AR), to packages

Various product information has to be displayed on the package to catch consumersf eyes. Augmented reality satisfies the need and has been employed to packages as an advertising and sales promotion campaign strategy with the widespread use of smartphones and tablet computers.

10. Holding of Productions and Packaging in Daily Life Show 2015

The productions and Packaging in Daily Life Show 2015 was held from September 11 to 13, 2015, featuring gNew Facts about Packaging Containers.h This was the first trial to hold the show in a large commercial facility and provided consumers including children to the elderly with an opportunity to learn about the functions and importance of packages.

Selected & reported by the Institute of Packaging Professionals, Japan