Canadian Packaging

Smart labels get cool

Germany-based BASF Future Business GmbH, a 100 percent subsidiary of BASF SE, has developed the OnVu ICE label that facilitates cold chain monitoring that informs retailers and consumers if a frozen food is still safe to eat.


February 9, 2011
by Canadian Packaging Staff

Germany-based BASF Future Business GmbH, a 100 percent subsidiary of BASF SE, has developed the OnVu ICE label that facilitates cold chain monitoring that informs retailers and consumers if a frozen food is still safe to eat.

The creation of the new label technology was borne of the simple realization that a consumer or retailer can’t simply look at frozen food and determine if it is safe to eat.

“Manufacturers, retailers and consumers will soon be able to tell at a glance whether ice cream, pizza, fish or any other products were kept constantly deep-frozen or should rather be discarded because the cold chain was interrupted significantly,” explains Martin Angehrn, project manager, BASF Future Business GmbH. “And they’ll know this more reliably than by looking at the best before date.”

The OnVu ICE time temperature indicator from BASF has recently been launched, specifically targeting manufacturers of frozen products.

Temperature Memory

OnVu time temperature indicators are smart labels placed upon food packaging to monitor the cold chain for chilled and deep-frozen food, making the current state of the product visible–the label changes color depending on temperature. The darker its color, the better the cold chain has been maintained.

“OnVu labels, which sort of memorize temperature, help to keep chilled and frozen products fresh,” says Angehrn.

Applied to the packaging OnVu monitors the food on its way from the manufacturer to the retailer. In addition, the label is a useful marketing tool allowing retailers to help customers at home to maintain their own cold chain for chilled and frozen foods.

Simple Symbol

OnVu is actually cost-effective and easy to use: a temperature-sensitive ink is used to print a thermometer symbol on the product label or even, in the packaging line, directly onto the packaging.

The indicator at the center of the thermometer is activated for use by means of UV (Ultraviolet) light, which causes it to turn a dark blue color. From this moment on, the indicator monitors the cold chain.

Acting as a reference, the outer portion of the thermometer is a lighter shade of blue. The cold chain monitor works simply: as long as the center is darker than or the same as the reference color, then there has not been any significant interruption in the cold chain, and the best before date shown on the packaging remains valid.

As time goes by and/or if the cold chain is broken, the color pales. The speed of the color change process and the temperatures that trigger it can be customized individually.

On frozen foods, OnVu stays a dark blue color as long as the temperature is kept continually below minus 18 degrees Celsius. The higher the temperature rises, the faster the color changes. This is suitable for foods that keep for a long time when frozen to –18 degrees.

“When the temperature rises to cause thawing, these foods should be consumed immediately,” Angehrn explains.

About BASF Future Business GmbH

BASF Future Business GmbH, a 100 percent subsidiary of BASF SE, was founded in April 2001. It focuses on chemistry-based new materials, technologies and system solutions. More information can be found at www.basf-fb.de.

About BASF

BASF is a leading global chemical company, with a portfolio that includes: chemicals, plastics and performance products to agricultural products, fine chemicals and oil and gas. More information is available at www.basf.com.