e’ve all heard of fast food, but the same term could also be applied to a new generation of food and beverage packaging technology.
Consumers are seeking complete meal and snack solutions on the go – lightweight and portable packaging that’s easily disposable, re-sealable and enabling easy hand-held consumption for on the go dining, in car or at the desk.
A new wave of fresher and healthier products with minimal processing and greater convenience through pre-washing, cutting and preparation translates in packaging to enhanced product visibility, wholesome image presentation, functionality, and environmental friendliness.
Presentation has become increasingly important - just look at the range of premium and indulgent packaging with features such as embossing, metallic colours, shaping and shrink sleeves.
Portion control, tamper evidence, novel and fun packaging, increased shelf life, and active and intelligent packaging are other key trends.
Amcor Research and Technology innovation and alliance manager Dr Michael Blake highlights continuous improvement of food and beverage supply chain efficiencies as a key driver of new packaging solutions.
Shelf ready packaging is a big trend. RFID tags are another. RFID, says Blake, is being used to communicate information to the consumer, to improve security and traceability, to minimise wastage, and to reduce retailer costs through logistics.
Other key trends in food and beverage packaging, says Blake, is promotion of healthy living with fresher and healthier foods with a longer shelf life, portion control and product labelling, and smaller/single serve portions in a ready-to-eat format.
A focus on packaging waste management is bringing forth environmentally sustainable packaging systems. Bioplastics are a good example.
There is also more emphasis on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to compare the environmental footprint of products.
“The strongest trend for food and beverage producers is to present their products in a pack that supports the image of nutrition and health to the consumer,” Metalprint Australia director Terry Waterson told Packaging.
Metalprint has developed a 70ml trendy container well recognized by French children for lunch box size healthy fruit snacks and since last year in Europe, the pack is now used for dairy snack products including
yoghurt. The yoghurt is a squeezie pack with reclose feature and is enjoying the slogan ‘yoghurt without the spoon’.
“All new packs must have shelf appeal, point of difference, quality appearance and easy use for the consumer,” Waterson said.
“The pack must also have the property for the food producer to target a specific age audience e.g. a fun pack attracting children or a convenience pack for people on the move.”
International food companies are increasingly turning to steel as a packaging format for premium brands, with its ability to increase sales, enhance flavour and demand shelf presence, according to the Canned Food Industry Association (CFIA) .
In 2004 leading Brazilian chocolate drink Supercau increased sales and gained premium shelf exposure after converting to steel packaging.
The chocolate drink mix manufactured by CBS was previously packaged in a 400g plastic container, which CBS replaced with a Ploc Off closure can developed by Brazilian steel maker Brasilata, combining a steel body and resealable plastic cap.
The can, launched in August 2003 sold over 1.5 million units of Supercau in the first half of 2004, placing over 700 tons of chocolate drink mix in thirsty cups.
Dominik Dobaj of Perfect Packaging says the whole industry is striving for less packaging content and more effectiveness.
“The future is in providing a primary pack that also doubles to deliver user and retail information,” Dobaj told Packaging.
“Shrink Sleeves are a good example since they may be printed with bar codes and other text as well as providing protection.”