Research, innovation and development of the Nigeria packaging Sector

The Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the Niger apex research Institute (FIIRO), Dr Gloria Elemo takes a look at research and Innovation development of packaging sector in the Nigeria Economy as answer questions from our editor -Ozzie Oyakhilome.

Could you please evaluate the packaging industry in Nigeria and how much it has affected our domestic and international markets?

The packaging industry in Nigeria is depicted with strong growth between 2009 and 2014 and becoming more competitive, unfortunately it is highly dominated by the Multinational companies and the indigenous players are relegated to the background. The packaging food market continues to perform well in Nigeria. The growth of the already large Nigerian population particularly numbers of babies, children and young people drives categories such as baby food, confectionery, noodles, biscuits and dairy. A booming urban population, cities such as Abuja and Lagos are expanding remarkably through satellite town growth – fuels demand for convenient food and drink products such as drinking yoghurt, pastries, and sweet and savoury snacks such as fruit snacks. An increase in formal working
culture also restricts the amount of time consumers can spend on traditional, unpackaged food products. Finally, marketing activities by producers through advertising and the shift of emphasis to smaller packaging units also helped to boost market growth.
As the Federal Institute of Industrial Research – what has been your input in the packaging sector? Do FIIRO have any packaging design that has been mass produced for the lager market? What are these packages?
The Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) is the first institution in Nigeria both Universities and Research Institutes that created a whole Division for Packaging Technology. The major mandate is to research into the Design and Development of appropriate packaging materials for fresh and processed foods. These
include material selection, product and packaging materials compatibility, shelf life studies both natural and accelerated among others. In addition, the Institute is setting up a Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Packaging Centre in conjunction with West African Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP) and other agencies to help the MSMEs in meeting their packaging needs to enhance competitiveness. FIIRO has not mass produced any packaging design, but has served as a way out for many entrepreneurs in selecting the best suitable
materials after carrying out specific research for the packaging of processed foods. In short, FIIRO design and implement packaging solutions based on specific requirements of the client.
In some departments within your set-up, product packaging seems to be an integral part – e.g. Meat, Poultry and Sea Tech Division –where labeling, display and packaging of produce is important –what and how has been done within these areas.

FIIRO has one of its mandate as Research and Development into Packaging and Product Design. Charity they say begins at home. We try our best possible in the design and development of suitablepackaging materials for all products emanating from the institute using our research techniques to bring about the most suitable materials for all fresh and processed foods.

FIIRO has developed and packaged feeds for grass cutters and snails –Nigeria most popular delicacies, how has the packaging affects the shelve life and market acceptability locally and internationally?
One of the major considerations in material selection for any product is to consider the wholesomeness of the food product over a range of time. This is one of the major reasons for the determination of shelf life of the food. The Institute has tried its best possible based on the available resources and equipment to develop packaging materials
for all food and non-food products emanating from the Institute with well-structured shelf life studies both natural and accelerated. This is done for example in ‘Emu’ (FIIRO PALM-WINE) with a shelf life of one whole year and for your information is currently a very good candidate economic commodity for export. This is an attestation to
its international acceptability.

Do FIIRO have special material for packaging that was developed in the institute in any area? What and which?

Having in mind our traditional packaging methods that have lingered for so long – e.g. the use of rafted basket for transits packaging, especially in agro-food produces from hinterlandto urban areas. FIIRO have developed specialized material for packaging which is a composite of metallized sheet and flexible packaging material for
‘Ugba’, Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), FIIRO Biscuits, Cassava Flour, Onion Paste among others. Packaging of agro-food produces from hinterland to urban areas is one of the major projects going on presently because of the enormity of funds lost due to poor transit packaging. On this, research work is still on-going.

In your Nutrition and Toxicology Division, FIIRO has developed and packaged Nigeria Traditional dishes – how are they fairing in the local and international market shelf? Can the packaging of these dishes compared to that of international packaged soups?

In the Nutrition and Toxicology Division of Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi, (FIIRO) various formulations and types of packaged Nigeria traditional dishes especially packaged traditional soups have been developed. These products are high quality, well processed, shelf stable soup products that can stay on the shelf for up to 12months.

The packaged traditional soups compares favourably well to any packaged soup in the international market, only that unlike the Continental Western Soups used as appetizers, these traditional soups serve as an accomplishment for traditional main course meal, particularly to what is popularly referred to as swallows.