Dramatic changes in demographics, lifestyles, and eating patterns are helping to drive packaging innovations. Among the mega-trends feeding into package development are changing population distribution, fewer married couples, more people living alone, smaller household size, and multi-generational households. These demographic shifts are leading to changes in household dynamics and eating behaviors, such as multi-shopper households, more meals being eaten alone, and snacking more often and on more occasions. Also changing is the balance between perishable foods merchandised in stores’ so-called “perimeter departments” vs. shelf-stable and frozen foods merchandised in the center-store aisles. Yet another influence is the rise in smaller-footprint stores.
With one- or two-person households now representing 61% of all U.S. households, packages sized to serve one or two people are a big trend. Such formats include single-serve fare, meals for two, multi-packs of individual portions, and resealable packages. A growing number of marketers are packaging fresh produce for on-the-go snacking convenience. Resealable, stand-up packaging is booming because it stands out on store shelves, saves space both at retail and in consumers’ kitchens, and allows consumers to use only what they need, while the rest can remain fresh for future meals. Marketers are also switching to pouches to give their brands a more contemporary look to appeal to Millennial consumers. At the same time, smaller sizes are springing onto retail shelves as a way to control portion size and reduce calories per serve, particularly in snack foods and beverages. The Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc., and Dr Pepper Snapple Group all offer a variety of their carbonated soft drink brands in 7.5-ounce mini cans.
According to Packaged Facts’ Food and Beverage Packaging Innovation in the U.S.: Consumer Perspectives, almost seven out of 10 people say freshness, followed by food safety, are their highest priorities in food and beverage packaging. The top three features consumers want in food and beverage packaging are tamper-proof, easy to open, and resealable. Other packaging benefits popular among consumers are portability, lighter weight, and no-mess dispensing.
When it comes to communicating values, an increasing number of marketers are putting their products in packages that are see-thru or have see-thru windows. Transparency in packaging taps into consumer desire for transparency about how food and beverages are produced-both figuratively and literally-as companies that are transparent about their ingredients, sourcing, and business practices reap the benefits in consumer goodwill and trust.
Eco-friendly packaging is also growing, especially for single-serve bottled water, which has come under attack by environmentalists in recent years as epitomizing the wasteful nature of modern society. Recent innovations in eco-friendly packaging include Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle, which the company calls the world’s first PET plastic bottle created solely from plant-based materials, and Nestle Waters North America’s new bottle for its Resource Natural Spring Water, which is made from 100% recycled materials.
From in-store purchase through consumption, packaging for food and beverages is evolving to intersect with consumer needs and desires. Besides containing and protecting the contents, packaging serves as a billboard to make products stand out from their competition on store shelves and to communicate marketers’ values. No wonder, then, that categories and brands are benefiting significantly when marketers merge consumer trends with packaging innovation.