The Latest Trends in Packaging
Food packaging must meet a wide array of stringent requirements. It has to protect the food from damage during transport. It must protect the food from exposure to bacteria and fungi in the air and it should look attractive on the shelves so that potential customers want to buy it. The brand information must also be obvious so that loyal shoppers are able to pick it out on the shelves. Most importantly it has to display necessary warnings and informational notices so that it is compliant with national law. This could be nutritional information, allergen warnings or country of produce. With the rise in the plastic free movement there is now a demand for products to be packaged in alternative materials that can be recycled, composted or reused.
Customers are demanding increasingly “green” packaging for food products, especially single-use disposable containers. One approach is using biodegradable packaging, whether this is made from biodegradable plastics or bamboo depends on the product. Another approach is using recycled materials that can themselves be recycled. Recycled cardboard boxes and recycled plastic are often used in food packaging. A less obvious solution is investing in single layer packaging. For example, eliminating plastic sleeves and inserts to protect the product and combining all of these functions into a single container eliminates several layers of packaging. You use less material to deliver the product to the consumer. Simply printing the messaging on the box instead of using a plastic sleeve is one way to reduce the plastic content.
There’s also been a trend toward simpler food products. It has become a selling point to have just one or two ingredients in a product. The challenge for confectionery packaging makers is coming up with ways to protect these new formulations. For example, reduced use of preservatives reduces the shelf-life of the food and increases the need to protect the food from the air. Increased use of salt or highly acidic formulations to fight bacteria puts additional stress on packaging. Whether you use thicker paper, treated paper, plastic wraps or other solutions, food producers have to protect increasingly perishable food products. A related issue is the trend toward showing rather than telling consumers what is in the product. You may show an image of fruit or name the fruit in blazing letters on the package, but the customer increasingly wants to see the dried fruit or fruit puree inside.
The back-to-basics movement is pushing food manufacturers toward simpler, more direct labelling. This results in fewer stickers and pop-outs and greater branding via logos displayed prominently or branded colour schemes. For example, diet products are now identified by the colour coordinated box first and foremost and secondarily by the word “diet” on the side followed by the brand name. Fewer buzz words grace the box in favour of the two or three identifiers that matter most to consumers. This reduces printing costs for packagers and improves readability for an aging public as well as eliminates confusion in a multi-lingual society. The move away from plastic packaging towards compostable and biodegradable materials will hopefully continue and the rise in zero waste shops will hopefully mean a return to refillable and reusable packaging too. Simple switches from plastic bottles to glass and pastic bags to paper will also have a great impact on waste going to landfill and less plastic ended up in the environment.