Each year in Europe the value of waste food and its associated packaging amounts to some 140 billion euros. The chief reason for this waste is the best-before date specified on food packaging. Consumers generally adhere to this date and thereafter discard food products. This applies in particular to dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt for which the best-before date is usually just a guide for the actual expiry date. Indeed many dairy products can be kept and are safe to consume way beyond the stipulated best-before date. The collaborative IntelliDate project aims to develop an intelligent packaging system using sensors to measure the actual expiry date of foods.
Development of an intelligent packaging system
The project work involves creating an algorithm for predicting the actual expiry date of foods using the example of extended shelf-life milk. The algorithm will be based on multiple quality tests under real storage conditions, so enabling the expiry date of extended shelf-life milk to be measured as a function of external factors (e.g. temperature, light intensity, etc.).
This information will then be used as the starting point for programming a smartphone app for consumers. A special sensor label on the packaging will serve as a readout and give consumers information about, for example, the current condition/quality of the product, the actually predicted expiry date, the origin of the product, and the ingredients/contents of the product.
Stages of the development work along the value-creation chain
Key aspects of the project are as follows:
- Determination of the effect of temperature on the entire life cycle of extended shelf-life milk
- Development of an algorithm for predicting the real expiry date
- Development of a reusable sensor label for recording the necessary data
- Development of a cloud-based smartphone app for evaluating the recorded data sets
- Drawing up guidelines for practical use of the developed system
- Evaluation of the economic benefits based on the technical project results
Reduction of food wastage using the smartphone app
The app will enable consumers, retailers, and food manufacturers to monitor the actual shelf-life of food products. The first stage will solely focus on reducing milk waste by using the actual best-before date. In the future the app could be extended to other categories of foods and so make a key contribution to lowering overall food wastage.