March 1, 2019

Food packaging increasingly important in marketplace

Ben-Massoud-United-FreshProduce manufacturers are entrusted with developing customer relationships, and no touch point is more influential than in-store. The difference between acquiring a lifetime customer and discouraging a consumer from ever taking a second look at your brand often takes place before the product is even opened.

Packaging design and shelf appeal is becoming increasingly crucial in influencing a consumer’s decision to purchase. Whether browsing through an e-commerce website or pacing the aisles of a local brick-and-mortar, a fraction of a second is all that brands have to make an impression on the wandering, distracted eyes of the customer.

Manufacturers have the power to communicate attributes and benefits of the product, establish consistency, and build brand equity all through attractive and innovative packaging design. Packaging is viewed as the face of a company. It speaks to the consumer when you’re not there to tell the story yourself.

Conversely, the mere appearance of packaging also can turn customers away from an otherwise stellar product.

“When manufacturers launch new products or branding, they often change too many elements in their packaging at one time,” said Andy Laible, marketing manager for Sonoco “The consumers they’ve built an emotional connection with are now lost, and almost feel betrayed when they can’t identify with the product any longer.

“Any time you make a change in packaging, you have to make sure you meet the consumers’ needs and that all stakeholders are comfortable with what sometimes can be a dramatic change in format.”

‘Transparency is huge’

Sonoco, one of the largest diversified packaging suppliers, from paper to rigid plastics to flexibles, has invested heavily in consumer research capabilities. The aim is to capture the voice of consumers before the launch of a new concept to the market.

Just like there is limited shelf space, there is a finite amount of packaging per product that needs to most effectively capitalize on current market trends and insights.

“Transparency is huge,” Laible said. “Consumers want to be connected to what they eat, so making sure the product is visible through the packaging, while incorporating important information such as the ingredients and origin of the product, communicates confidence and authenticity and is essential to create real connections between brands and shoppers.”

Consumers demand convenient packaging to meet the needs of their on-the-go lifestyles, including easy-open packaging that permits portable consumption. Eating habits continue to evolve as we move into a “snackification” trend, Laible said, ditching traditional sit-down meals in favor of intermittent grazing and snacking.

On-the-go packaging also enables portion control — a notable consideration in reducing packaging waste and food waste. Seeking to increase sustainability, companies are embracing simplicity with creativity in developing minimalistic designs that still attract eyeballs. Reduced packaging can lead to reduced costs and less energy used in manufacturing.

— Ben Massoud is the Manager of Communications for the United Fresh Produce Association. 

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