Packaged goods face many challenges during shipping, storage, and other supply chain steps. Among them are exposure to oxygen, temperature swings, environmental hazards, and the wear and tear of the journey to the hands of the consumer.
But perhaps the most devious problem for packaged goods is humidity, or the level of atmospheric moisture in a given area. Humid environments can wreak havoc on packaging from the outside in, starting slowly at first, and leading to significant problems down the road.
Humidity control should be a top priority for product manufacturers, particularly when navigating uncharted territories and supply chains with unpredictable environmental factors. Humidity fluctuates. It’s important to choose the right packaging for your products to ensure they arrive in good shape even in the case of slight shipping delays.
Let’s talk about why humidity control is so important, how it affects packaging strategies, and what businesses can do to protect their products from vapor using the best materials and packaging partnerships that make it happen.
What Is Humidity Control?
We know that humidity is the amount of moisture present in the surrounding atmosphere. In that case, humidity control encompasses any techniques and technologies used to maintain a proper humidity level in that specific area or enclosure.
In the context of your own home, basic humidity control systems can be found in the form of humidifiers (adding moisture to the air), or dehumidifiers (extracting moisture and lowering humidity). More advanced systems can balance these two mechanisms to find the sweet spot and create the ideal conditions for manufacturing, research, and other applications.
From the standpoint of consumer packaged goods manufacturers, humidity control is therefore key to the entire production equation, including the packaging process that ties it all together.
How Does Humidity Control Affect Packaging?
There’s way more to packaging than meets the eye. Humidity control is right up there with features like design, functionality, and other barrier properties.
Manufacturers are cognizant of humidity and its effects. Many have experienced the negative impacts of atmospheric vapor up close and personal. Here are some real-life examples of why humidity control matters in the context of packaging and why it’s such a vital step in the manufacturing process.
A company is only as good as its last batch of products. Humidity can put a literal damper on things by creating inconsistency in product quality. The addition of moisture can change the look, feel, and flavor of food products, especially dry products like cereals and snacks.
The same principle applies for non-consumables like personal care items, cosmetics, and mechanical or electronic components.
With humidity ramping up in certain seasons and ever-present in particular areas of the world, globally-connected companies may find that products end up falling short in key quality metrics due to moisture.
When humid conditions hit the factory floor, production can grind to a halt due to mechanical issues or problems with packaging. Since materials are out in the open, in raw form, they’re extra sensitive to atmospheric conditions. This condition makes humidity control vitally important.
This calls for strenuous measures in the production facility, the shipping facility, and other stops on the manufacturing journey before products even reach retail shelves and consumer carts.
Think of the shocks you get from wearing socks on the carpet in dry conditions. Multiply that phenomenon by far greater magnitude in industrial settings. As you might imagine, the static build-up generated in a factory or packaging plant can be devastating to products and potentially dangerous to workers.
Proper humidity control is the first line of defense against dangerous static build-up at larger scales. Moisture levels of about 40% are best to help reduce the risk of static build-up.
Regulating temperature is also a factor here. Using the right packaging to prevent static build-up ensures that products remain shock-free and in good working or usable condition all the way home.
Damages Interior Product
Every bit of inventory counts in a competitive business environment. Even a few damaged products can have a negative ripple effect for a company. Customers take note of moisture damage in products and may switch to another brand as a result.
Additionally, retailers may stop buying from a wholesale supplier if damaged product becomes the norm, and losing those key connections can sometimes prove fatal for a business.
By prioritizing humidity control, among other protections and strategies, a company will preserve its reputation for quality and ensure that every product shipped out meets a standard of excellence.
What Can a Business Do to Minimize Damages From Humidity?
If a business wants to limit damage from humidity (or lack thereof), a complete humidity control plan is needed in every step of the production and packaging process.
This starts at the very first step of manufacturing, whether that’s at a dedicated site owned by the company or outsourced to a third party. Humidity controls at this stage may include high-powered machinery throughout a facility, along with devices that monitor humidity levels and track environmental changes.
Humidity units involve dispersing moisture through fog or mist, while dehumidifier units filter humid air through a desiccant module before dispersing clean supply air at the desired temperature and humidity level.
Businesses must keep in mind that it’s always easier (and more affordable) to add humidity to air rather than take it away. This applies to every step down the line as products come together in development, put into packages, and shipped out successfully.
How Does Packaging Choice Affect Humidity?
Instead of trying to manipulate humidity in every possible scenario (close to impossible), companies choose to focus on packaging that acts as a humidity control mechanism in itself.
There are countless packaging choices for brands nowadays, each with unique barrier properties and the ability to prevent humidity from crossing into the interior of a product unit. Specifically, moisture vapor transmission rate (MVTR) is the metric of interest, showing how much moisture will make its way into a package over time.
Package choice affects humidity in the short term and also down the line as products sit in warehouses, storage units, on store shelves, and in the homes of consumers. The best packages are designed with the full product life cycle in mind, ensuring that products remain free from the impact of moisture at every stage.
What Kind of Packaging Resist Moisture?
Not all packaging systems are equal in their barrier properties. Humidity control is no different.
For instance, thinner paperboard packages have poor moisture barriers. Although these materials are abundant and cheap, they may become damp or lose structural strength as a result of prolonged moisture exposure. These packages may break down over time and could harm the item inside.
Ideally, companies will look for flexible film materials for their packaging needs, including polyamide, polyethylene, BOPET, or other advanced materials. These packaging materials can be laminated, layered, and even reinforced with metals for superior protection without compromising convenience and user experience.
The best packaging solutions, like those offered via Dymapak, have multiple layers of protection, maximizing barrier properties for all potential pitfalls — humidity included.
The Bottom Line
With expanding supply chains and higher product standards, companies face increased pressure to better humidity control from manufacturing to packaging and beyond. Working with a dedicated packaging partner like Dymapak ensures that your products are resilient against moisture and humidity to help your product stay fresh and protected no matter the industry.
Controlling Moisture in Foods Using Packaging | IFT
How Moisture Affects Quality of Packaged Foods | FMT Magazine
Which Food Packaging is Best for Transit? | Packaging Connections