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A brief journey into cold chain packaging development to some thought on where we need to go with this new fast-growth market.


cold chain packaging

Cold chain packaging example


Reflective insulation has seen steady growth in the last few years due to a strong economy and building industry as well as through a newer use of this technology that is helping to drive growth.



Let’s first start off with what reflective insulation is and where it originated.

The metallized film has a low emittance surface (or high thermal reflectivity) which when combined with plastic bubble or paper reduces heat flow within the airspace.

Today, this reflective insulation has found a new application, in an up-and-coming industry, that of cold chain packaging, defined as a temperature-controlled supply chain.  The idea is to create a temperature-regulated package conducive to shipping perishable food as well as temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical, fresh cut flowers and other products.

The reflective film maintains a controlled temperature in a package by reflecting heat away from the container and thus maintaining the climate of the container.  The bubble provides the air gap for air circulation as well as protection for the contents.



This reflective packaging concept has taken off with the meteoric rise in online shopping, specifically online grocery shopping, including home delivery meal kits, a key market for temperature-controlled packaging with shipping of perishable goods.

According to the Food Market Institute (FMI), 2017 was a disruptor year on several fronts, with a six percent increase in consumer shopping at online-only food stores and a fifty percent jump from 2016 among millennials who say they shop online for groceries occasionally.  Based on this data FMI has projected that 70% of US Consumers will be grocery shopping online by 2022 – 2024, a two-fold acceleration from the previous ten-year projection.

There is lots of opportunity for growth, as online shopping and in turn, home delivery service grows.  And public conscience, aware of the incremental waste that these services create is driving the movement for sustainable solutions.   As a result, companies are looking for ways to improve the package to meet customer desires while meeting also their own sustainability goals with many brand owners having made commitments to fully recyclable packaging.  Reflective cold chain packaging is an effective option versus traditional expanded polystyrene containers or foam peanut fillers in both functionality and recyclability to move toward sustainability goals.


The meal kit model is primarily a subscription service where the consumer receives one or more meals a week.  Brands recognize the importance to minimize the impact of packaging on the environment.

In the arena of sustainable and recyclable insulating containers, there are many initiatives underway.  One such company has devised a cold chain package using sustainable materials such as recycled jeans while another recycles discarded cotton and coffee jute bags for use in their container.

Another innovative cold-chain solution uses non-GMO cornstarch that dissolves in water.

Now, couple these insulators with a facing metallized film and you have a winner with the incorporation of radiant barrier.  One winning commercial application is a combination of metallized film laminated to corrugated. After use, the consumer collapses the structure for recycling.  The corrugated is re-processed, and the metallized film layer easily separated from the box.



There will be more to come in new developments in this market that is just in its infancy.  A compostable reflective layer could amp up the eco-friendly attributes in cold chain packaging.  Perhaps the eco-conscious consumer is willing to pay for such a sustainability initiative.

Your thoughts?




Naomi Panagapka
Customer Solutions
Celplast Metallized Products

Packaging Insight

Packaging Insight

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