Keeping Ahead of Consumer Packaging Demands
For consumers, an essential part of the purchasing process is ensuring they’re doing the right thing. They want to recycle their packaging. They want to reduce food and packaging waste. They want to buy food items that they believe are the best choices for themselves and their families. As these desires increase, it’s up to converters and brand owners to work together to deliver on these consumer demands.
Mintel, a global market intelligence agency, recently released its "Food Packaging Trends - US - June 2016" report that reveals some eye-opening numbers pertaining to consumer demands and desires for packaging. For example, 25% of consumers say that recycling instructions are not always clear on packaging. More than half of consumers state fresh produce often expires before they can use it, and they would be motivated to select packaging if it helped prevent food from spoiling. 38% of consumers state they’d be more motivated to purchase packaging that allows them to see the contents inside.
To get a better understanding of these findings and what they may mean for package printers and converters, packagePRINTING caught up with David Luttenberger, global packaging director for Mintel.
packagePRINTING: Where are labels and packaging falling short in communicating recyclability to consumers, and how could they improve?
David Luttenberger: A lot of it comes from multi-component packages where you have something like a bag-in-box or a box of wine with a dispensing fitment. Consumers aren’t always clear when it says, ‘Made of Recyclable Content,’ ‘Please Recycle’ or ‘This Package is Recyclable,’ if that refers to just the outer package or the outer and inner package. The communication often stops short of telling them the whole story.
The second part of that is they’re not always sure if that package is recyclable in their community. We know that consumers are putting more emphasis on brands preserving and protecting the environment. They believe the big corporations and CPG food companies have more power to preserve and protect the environment than consumers do alone. They’re looking for those brands to help them understand not only what’s recyclable, but help them to take action. That action part is where brands and packaging are falling short.
Although they’re saying, ‘This Package is Recyclable,’ they’re not telling the consumer what they can do. I think that leads to what we’re starting to see with brands like Hershey, Unilever, Campbell’s and many others beginning to use this How2Recycle Label. It’s giving consumers the opportunity to understand the hyper-actionable piece of the recycling or sustainability equation.
pP: What advice or recommendations do you have for converters to get on the same page with brands to improve the recyclability communication issue?
DL: First and foremost, package printers and converters need to have a much better understanding of exactly what it is consumers want. You have to go a little bit deeper. You have to understand the action behind it.
It goes back to converters really understanding what they have the capability to convert and working with their CPG clients and not just sitting back, taking orders and printing it when the orders come in.
Why not become partners with that CPG? They’ve done it in a lot of other areas like package design. Why not become a greater partner in helping them understand what next-generation or alternative materials are available that have the same properties, or can be enhanced with that same print receptivity and what new finishing processes are out there that can enable the brand to make bolder claims.
pP: What do you attribute to the increase in consumer demand for single-serve packaging or smaller pack sizes?
DL: There’s a lot going on beyond that consumer sentiment and desire. If you look at demographics like millennials, they tend to shop more often, so they’re not looking for big bulk purchases. They’re willing to pay a little bit more for that convenience factor from single-serve of buying it tonight and maybe taking it for lunch the next day.
Something that consumers often don’t understand is that when you look at food waste and packaging waste, food waste is far greater in our economy today than packaging waste.
Most often, a smaller package requires more packaging. For example, if you buy one head of lettuce that’s packaged proportionally, you could buy three heads of lettuce in less packaging than you can package one in. So a smaller package doesn’t necessarily mean a more environmentally responsible package.
Consumers often also don’t understand the role that packaging plays in preventing food waste and food spoilage. Those wraps and respiring flexible materials allow produce to breathe so it doesn’t get moldy. We’re seeing packaging that increases the shelf life of produce from seven to 15 days. That’s huge in terms of being able to prevent food waste and getting the most for your money.
pP: The report mentions a consumer desire for more transparency in packaging, which can be accomplished through cutouts, windows and clear films. Are these finishing elements of packaging rivaling the importance of print?
DL: Consumers like to be able to see what’s in there. When product price and perceived product quality are equal, the consumer will always make that purchasing decision based on what they believe to be fresh, pure and safe. Windows, whether it’s a diecut, a high-clarity film, high-clarity plastic or glass container, empower the consumer to make a purchase decision based on what they believe to be pure, safe, fresh or high quality. It speaks volumes more than what a brand tries to convince them of by just saying that a product has special ingredients.
From a printer and converter perspective, it’s about understanding the materials and converting processes that are available to provide high-clarity packages, and communicating those technologies and innovations to the brands who want to migrate toward larger windows, high-clarity films and clear containers with less graphics.
Whether it’s recyclability, package size or decoration, I think printers and converters still have to do a better job of not sitting back and not saying, ‘I don’t have any influence on that. I just print or convert the job orders that come in to me.’ They have to take a more proactive role.