Scented food packaging could improve product appeal

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Technology, Olfaction

A major cereal brand is set to be re-launched in the US with new
scented fruity packaging that the manufacturer hopes will increase
the appeal of its product.

The undisclosed cereal brand, due to reach the market by next year, is the next in line of an increasing number of products that are using the new method to gain market share, according to the company that developed the technology.

US firm ScentSational Technologies, which began commercialization just under three years ago, claims to have pioneered the concept of taking food grade flavours and modifying them to allow them to be incorporated into plastic. The result: aromatic food packaging.

According to the company's chief technology officer Steven Landau, a number of products using this technology have already been launched onto the US and Canadian markets, and, judging by the interest the firm has received, "we will see a lot more of these products internationally in the next year."

The trick lies in incorporating scent into plastic while it is still molten, resulting in each scent molecule becoming individually wrapped in plastic so it stays fresh and stable.

Similar to the technology used to incorporate fragrances into packaging for cosmetics, this "encapsulated aroma release"​ allows manufacturers to transfer a desired smell to their product's packaging as a way to increase its appeal to consumers, often by giving people the perception they are eating something the product does not actually contain. This can be achieved, for example, through the addition of butter notes or sweet notes, explained Landau.

The technology, which is primarily used for baked goods, cereal and snacks, can also be used to overcome the momentary off-smell sometimes experienced when a package is opened up.

"A negative interaction between a product and its packaging often results in a rancid aroma when certain packages are opened. This happens, for example, in cereal products that have a thicker packaging. Incorporating a scent into the packaging can prevent this,"​ Landau told

Another- less frequent- use of the technology is to achieve an off-the shelf aroma, which draws consumers to products as they pass by supermarket aisles. This application is particularly used for bread bags, which can give off the smell of freshly-baked bread, said the company.

"We can go into a plant and capture the volatile aromas that occur when a product is baked. We then go back to the lab and make the same aromas to put into packaging."

According to Landau, because 90 per cent of the overall taste experience is a result of smell, the use of this technology can also continue to infuse aroma- and even flavour- back into the product itself.

"It's like the Chardonnay wines that take up the flavour of the oak barrels they are stored in. We take that same technology and reproduce it in a newer way, resulting in the product being enhanced from its packaging."

ScentSational says it is also working with food firms to develop signature aromas for their brands, in a way that helps them communicate their value proposition to consumers. This is based around the concept that smell is linked to a lifetime memory.

"In the past year we have seen a lot of new understanding in the industry about the power of aroma, not just in branding but in the whole consumer experience,"​ said Landau.

According to the company, the technology it has developed does not need any additional regulatory approval due to the fact that all ingredients used are approved materials for food use. Changes to flavours to incorporate them into packaging does not involve molecular modifications but rather changes to concentrations of how and where the ingredients are used.

The cost of using the technology is "not at all expensive,"​ said Landau. The initial fragrance development could cost anything between $10,000 to $100,000, depending on the complexity of the flavour and the application. Implementing the flavour into products could then cost under 1 cent per unit for large scale production.

As well as packaging for cereal and baked goods, the technology can also be used in other products, including yoghurt cups, ready-to eat soup bowls and beverage bottles.

ScentSational, which has protected its technology with a web of patents, claims to be the only company globally to be working in this field. It has teamed up with the UK's Aroma Company, which represents the technology in Europe.

Related topics: Flavours and colours

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