Diane Teer, MeadWestvaco’s new president of the Food Packaging Business, comments on food packaging developments in an exclusive interview.

Diane Teer, new president of MeadWestvaco's Food Packaging Business

By Rick Lingle, Editor in Chief

When MeadWestvaco Corp., Richmond, VA., named Diane Teer as the new president of the company’s Food Packaging Business (seeTeer named to MWV management post), they selected someone who knew the consumer packaged goods (CPG) side of the business from the inside.

In foods, Teer held leadership positions at ConAgra Foods where she oversaw brands including Banquet, Marie Callender’s and Healthy Choice. She also spent nine years at The Campbell Soup Co. focusing on growing and refreshing brands in the beverage and soup categories. Before that, she led marketing efforts at The Nabob Coffee Co. and the integration of its brands into Kraft’s portfolio following the acquisition by Kraft Canada.

Food & Beverage Packaging Beverage Packaging wanted to tap her expertise to cast some light on the prepared foods markets.

Food & Beverage Packaging: What are the trends in packaged foods?

Diane Teer: Packaging is one of the most important marketing vehicles for any brand. Effective messaging-not only through graphics but also structure-elevates the role of a pack from projecting a brand’s image to telling its story. Knowing what drives consumers to a purchase decision is the key to a brand’s success.

Many of our customers have told us that they are concerned about the environmental impact of packaging. Brands want to offer consumers sustainable packaging options, but they’re not willing to do so at any price point.

Private label continues to be another big trend in the food industry. Through the economic downturn, consumers became hyper-aware of their budgets, and as a result, shopping habits shifted toward private label brands. In fact, our research shows that 78% of consumers believe that private label products are just as good as established name brands. Although the economy seems to be improving, consumers are still looking for value. To stay on consumers’ grocery lists, private label brands need to maintain customer attention and loyalty. One way to do that is through packaging. Our research shows a strong correlation between better graphic quality and premium perception of a brand. Packaging can serve as a persuasive vehicle to keep a brand’s story front and center with consumers.

Shopper Ready Packaging is probably the most recent trend and the most challenging. Retailers are looking for more efficient vehicles for stocking product on the shelf and are pushing brands to find solutions. Often those solutions are in the form of tray packs which can work against the image a brand is trying to convey.

Packaging that is more efficient for the retailer, is a strong communication vehicle for the brand, and is easy to shop for the consumer is a win-win-win.

F&BP: How do you/MWV  define “shopper-ready packaging” and what is an example of that?

Teer: Shopper ready solutions are the ready-to-display packaging that ships a product and then transforms easily into an attractive, shelf-ready display case. It can also be referred to as retail ready packaging (RRP), shelf ready packaging (SRP), or display ready packaging (DRP). But those names imply that the benefit only applies to the retailer. In fact, the real focus with any packaging should be the shopper-- attracting them, motivating them, and bringing them back for more. Our custom-designed shopper-ready packaging solutions are designed with a goal of providing a more successful experience for the shopper, the retailer and the brand – creating a win for all three groups.

We are currently in the process of working with some key branded customers to bring to market our Captivate™ family of customized merchandising solutions. We are excited about the many benefits of this new system. From a consumer perspective, the categories are easier to shop: branding is strong, and the organizing principle at the shelf makes it easy to find the variety of choice. From a retailer perspective: the product is quicker to stock, which results in up to a 67% reduction in labor costs; there are fewer injuries and losses from damaged products from “tool-less” case opening features; the product is easily identifiable throughout the supply chain; and Captivate packaging is recyclable, collapsible, and stackable.  From a branded perspective, the benefits are incremental sales and enhanced brand presence.

F&BP: What prepared foods market subsegment do you see as an especially good growth opportunity?

Teer: We see tremendous opportunities in frozen food and chilled ready meals using developments such as nanotechnology, advanced barrier coatings, and surface modifications. In the frozen food segment, for example, brand owners need packaging that properly conveys the quality and consistency of the meal experience, but importantly, delivers secondary cartons and sleeves that protect the product and its image throughout the very tough freeze thaw threats in the distribution channels.

F&BP: Lastly, where do you see the industry headed?

Teer: The outlook for food packaging is excellent. Brands and retailers alike understand the power of packaging in the marketing mix and are looking for innovative solutions that can drive consumer preference, improve efficiency, and reduce environmental impact.