How existing products can capitalize on trends
Sometimes seemingly contradictory trends collide. Case in point: data shows that consumers increasingly want to cook their own meals, but they also value convenience and ease in creating those meals.
Online grocer Peapod commissioned a national survey by ORC International to create its second annual meal planning forecast, which predicted “another busy year for the home chef.” According to the report, 73 percent of adults currently make dinner at home at least four nights a week and nearly one third, 31 percent, are planning to cook dinner at home more during 2018.
The group pushing that trend the hardest is millennials. with half of those surveyed saying they want to cook more in 2018. Across all age groups, Americans said one of the most helpful things, at 38 percent of respondents, that would make it easier to cook at home, is pre-chopped produce.
Those trends are affecting how companies package and sell their value-added products.
“Millennials are a driving force behind the meal-kit trend. They strive for a healthier lifestyle and a better connection with the food they consume. They demand natural foods in their natural state,” said Neal Watson, general manager at Maxwell Chase, a division of CSP Technologies.
Catering to these trends are Maxwell Chase’s Fresh-R-Pax systems.
The packaging system absorbs excess fluid from products and safely secures it in the bottom of tray or the back of the pouch, which is designed to extend shelf-life and enhance product quality, integrity, and taste.
When the product debuted, he said, it was first used with peppers and onions but the system is customized for specific fruits, vegetables and packaging requirements.
“We have seen Fresh-R-Pax expand into all facets of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. The driving force is consumer demand for a fresh tasting product,” he said.
Consumer demand for the utmost freshness in products is an important part of the recent trend toward at-home cooking. Citing the 2016 Power of Produce report from the Food Marketing Institute, the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) said that even though price is a powerful driver of consumer decision making, it’s not all that consumers look at.
“Quality and appearance of produce will sway shoppers more than just the bottom line, as will variety,” PMA wrote.
Further, the group wrote, many retailers are not fully capitalizing on shifting consumer values and maximizing the opportunity that fresh categories, especially produce, presents. The group said the retailers that will do the best are those that carry products that establish them as the “authority on fresh.”
The desire for freshness drives Fresh-R-Pax’s widespread use and the key, Watson said, is how the system is customized for each product and each product use. Maxwell Chase said its extensive food science and material science capabilities to enable the customization of packaging systems for their customers. The system encompasses the package size, the absorbent materials in the wells of the tray or the back of the pouch, and the lidding film. This total systems approach is what drives the effectiveness of the Fresh-R-Pax system.
“We provide a packaging system to our customers. Not just a tray, but the right absorbent material and lidding film to extend shelf life and enhance product quality, taste and integrity,” said Watson.
In addition to helping processors align with consumer demand, the shelf-life extension provided by the system can lead to a more efficient manufacturing process, Watson said. That is because, he said, Fresh-R-Pax enables processors to minimize changeovers while improving processing efficiencies.
Watson said many of the benefits of the system come back to shelf life.
“Fresh-R-Pax extends shelf life and reduces system-wide waste,” he said.
Watson says the Fresh-R-Pax system will continue to evolve to meet the trends of the future.
“The Fresh-R-Pax systems will always evolve to meet the demands of the consumer,” he said. “Our collaborative approach with our customers keeps us in touch with consumer trends and we use this feedback to continually improve the shelf-life extending and safety enhancing qualities of our food packaging systems.”