What is Smart Packaging?

If you are looking to leverage your packaging as a way to boost consumer engagement, track and trace products, or even help to create efficiencies in your supply chain, selecting a packaging manufacturer that offers digital printing technology is a great option.

Smart packaging, also known as connected packaging, is packaging that utilizes unique QR codes, barcodes, or other digital identities to engage with consumers, verify authenticity, and trace a product’s journey. This unparalleled technology transforms what was once a simple package into a digital tool, while delivering valuable insights and information to brand owners and consumers alike.

The global smart packaging industry is growing as more brands turn to this cutting-edge technology. In fact, a recent report by Data Bridge states that the global connected packaging market is expected to grow at a rate of 7.4% from 2020 to 2027, to USD 31.94 billion by 2027. 

How Smart Packaging Works

Using digital, variable data printing, a unique code is printed on each individual package. Each code connects to a digital experience that the brand owner controls and can update at any time, even after the product is in circulation.

These serialized codes give each and every pouch a unique digital identity. This can be helpful in guarding against counterfeiters and grey market diversion. Since each package has a unique code, you are able to trace each pouch or bag throughout the entire supply chain and provide customized digital experiences to individual consumers through a mobile interface. 

Additionally, since each product has its own special code, brands can associate specific data to a specific package. In the case of a recall, this can help brand owners easily remove only the affected product. Serialized QR codes also allow brand owners to obtain metrics on market and supply chain activities. 

Types of Smart Packaging 

There are three main types of smart packaging:

1. Consumer Engagement

There are endless opportunities for consumer engagement with connected packaging; be it educational, fun, or used as part of a loyalty program. All consumers can take advantage of this engagement by simply using their cell phone camera (no app required) to scan the code. Using the code, consumers are instantly directed to a specific experience, like a webpage. There, they can view a recipe, video, promotion, join a loyalty program, sign up for a newsletter, play a game, or even download a coupon. 

One example of this is with meal starter products like sauces and seasonings. Utilizing a QR code on these types of products allows consumers to scan the code and read a suggested recipe, or even watch a cooking tutorial using the product. And, if you want to swap out recipe videos weekly, you don’t need new packaging. It’s a win-win!

2. Product Authentication and Brand Protection 

These functions can serve both consumers and brand owners. For brands looking to highlight a product’s authenticity or sourcing story, connected packaging can be used on the package to deliver detailed information unique to that individual item. 

QR code product authentication examples could be a product verification page to confirm the authenticity of the product, or a page highlighting where and when it was produced, as well as batch number, manufacturing location, date, and time. 

For brand owners, secure QR codes have an added layer of security so that with every scan, the authenticity is evaluated and verified. The technology can detect when a code is copied and counterfeited, and brands are then alerted to the issue. The digital code also allows brand owners to follow the product as it makes stops throughout distribution. For high-end products that may be vulnerable to counterfeiting (think premium herbals, cosmetics, or supplements), this allows the brand owner to see where the product has been scanned along its journey to its customers and allows them to detect foul play along the way. 

3. Track and Trace

Track and trace is following a package’s (and product’s) journey from the beginning to the end. Consumers can use track and trace by scanning the code and learning about a product’s sourcing ingredients, as well as the product’s journey from farm to table (or store). Brand owners can use it to obtain critical information about the supply chain that will help to strengthen logistics.

For example, with coffee, track and trace capability allows consumers to follow the package from where the coffee beans are harvested, roasted and packaged through its journey to their local grocery store. Brand owners can track the coffee package’s journey to the point of purchase and beyond, all the way through to disposal or recycling. 


ePac’s smart packaging solution, ePacConnect, allows brand owners to personalize how they engage with their consumers, verify authenticity, and trace their product’s journey, all through their own digitally enabled, flexible packaging. It also allows brand owners to collect information all the way down to the individual product level to enhance business intelligence like never before. Our technology is based on variable data composition only possible through the digital printing process at ePac. 

Whether your goal is to improve sales through consumer interaction or uphold brand integrity, with connected or smart flexible packaging the opportunities are endless. Contact us today to learn more about ePacConnect and how we can help you leverage smart packaging.