Food packaging should do more than differentiate your product. In addition to keeping food fresh and free from bacterial contamination, the type of food packaging used by manufacturer should also showcase the strengths of your product. Essentially, your choice of innovative food packaging needs to elevate your brand above and beyond packaging used by your competitors.
Why Food Packaging Matters
Before consumerism reared its massive head and swallowed 20th century society forever, people tended to grow or raise much of their own foods, buying only staple items—i.e., salt, sugar, flour, baking soda, etc. Since the number of U.S. companies mass-packaging these essentials numbered less than 100 in the late 19th century, and everybody actually needed these items, the idea of advertising goods by packaging them in boxes emblazoned with colorful images seemed wasteful and ludicrous.
But by the middle of the 20th century, competition spurred by consumerism and improved manufacturing technology created the necessity for food processing companies to engage in innovative food packaging techniques.
According to Corinna Hawkes writing for Public Health Nutrition journal: "many food choices [purchases] are made at the point of sale, so the package becomes a critical factor in [the] consumer decision-making process... packaging communicates to consumers at the time they are actually deciding to buy food".
Today, consumers expect labels to share nutritional information, where the food was packaged and all ingredients including preservatives and additives. But food package labels not only tell consumers what they are buying, but they also attempt to persuade using words and images that relay one message to the buyer—this product is superior to the competition's product.
That’s a lot to say in a small piece of real estate.
Branding 101: Reach Consumers by Appealing to Beliefs and Values
What food manufacturers choose to package their products with also sends messages to consumers that may or may not encourage them to buy the product.
Foods that are packaged in recycled or recyclable materials, for example, indicates that the company is concerned about the environment and is making a concentrated effort to minimize their footprint. Alternately, canned food products or food in heavy glass jars appeal to the majority of consumers who are more concerned about quantity and affordability than the environment.
Active and Smart Packaging: What Innovation Says about You
Active packaging describes packaging that does more than protect and contain food.
Examples of active packaging are self-heating meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) and packages that include silica gel packets to inhibit moisture and mold growth. Another kind of active packaging—specifically for dairy products— involves flushing packages with blends of inert nitrogen and other gasses (combinations that are determined by how products degrade) to tightly shrink the plastic film to the product.
Smart packaging is rapidly emerging as a distinct field of food packaging that offers manufacturers the ability to detect microbial growth, spoilage or leakage in real-time by attaching sensors to the packaging material.
This innovative packaging technology also provides producers and store owners the benefits of photochromic qualities, time-temperature histories and physical shock indicators so that the risk of inadvertently selling contaminated or damaged food is greatly minimized or even eliminated.
PACK EXPO International 2014: The Future of Food and Beverage Packaging
Food manufacturers searching for innovative food packaging ideas will want to mark the PACK EXPO International event scheduled to begin November 2, 2104 on their calendars.
As North America's largest packaging and processing trade show, PACK EXPO reveals the latest advancements in plastic, glass, paperboard, flexible and metal containers and materials in addition to design resources, print effects and inks— a glimpse into what the future holds for the industry.