PMMI Corner: Innovation at its own pace
Food packaging is willing to embrace innovation, eventually.
One undeniable reality reaffirmed in 2016 is that interest and investment in processing and packaging equipment continue to grow. In fact, by 2020 the value of domestic shipments of packaging machinery will exceed $8.5 billion, with more than half of this growth projected to come from the food and beverage markets, according to research from PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies. The primary driver of this steady growth is the always evolving demands of consumers, i.e. a desire for specific packaging options leading to an explosion of SKUs. Today’s shopper wants environmentally safe packaging, for channel-specific products, for shelf-ready packaging, for extended shelf life packaging and for packaging that is easy to open and reseal.
While the food sector projects consistent growth, U.S. food companies do not usually lead the charge in packaging innovation, as noted by most food company respondents, equipment providers and industry experts in PMMI’s 2016 Food Packaging Trends & Advances. Of those that do, however, most packaging innovation is perceived to be within four specific segments of the U.S. food industry:
- Snack foods: Recycled and biodegradable materials for salty snacks; stylish, vivid graphics and shapes for single-serve packs
- Meat & related products: New films to keep meat fresher longer; active labels to sense when meat is past its expiration
- Fruit & vegetables: Clear, tactile films to make consumers pause and consider the product; more single-serve packaging
- Pet food: More recycled materials in packaging; single-serve containers to differentiate niche or premium products
When the time comes for change, food companies are willing to invest in packaging innovations. More often than not though they will first try simpler, less-expensive modifications (e.g., labels) before moving to complete overhauls of the package itself. Examples include differentiating products through visual and tactile packaging such as eye-popping, high-end graphics and overcoats on flexible packages for an appealing tactile feel. Other food companies use a variety of shapes, sizes and functionality – value-added features such as easy closure, reusability and portion size options.
When it is time to revamp a package, flexible packaging, and more specifically stand-up pouches, are becoming the format of choice. Inverted pouches like the first premade VersaPouch from Glenroy Inc. offer consumers the ease of a ready-to-dispense, gravity fed package that provides 99% product evacuation. Daisy Sour Cream is an example of a product that went from a plastic tub with a lid to an inverted pouch that now doesn’t require utensils. Food will also look to other vertical markets for ideas on packages. Innovations from other countries, on the other hand, tend to enter the U.S. food packaging market slowly. One trend from the U.K. that does excite meat manufacturers in the U.S. is a product with a film that opens in the oven while cooking to allow the meat to brown after a period of time. Other examples cited include sizing and adapting packaging for local markets (e.g., urban vs. rural for portion sizing), or having packages that can go directly from freezer to oven to table in a single package without transfer.
PMMI’s PACK EXPO portfolio of trade shows serve as the events in North America for processing and packaging innovation. In the spring, ProFood Tech debuts (April 4-6, 2017, McCormick Place, Chicago), as the most comprehensive food and beverage show in North America, transcending market sectors and showcasing cutting-edge technologies and innovation solutions. Powered by three of the world’s trade show leaders – PACK EXPO, Anuga and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) – this biennial show has already garnered massive support across market sectors and is unrivaled in its ability to bring the processing industry together and address the most critical issues.
PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, represents the voice of more than 750 North American manufacturers and suppliers of equipment, components and materials as well as providers of related equipment and services to the packaging and processing industry. We work to advance a variety of industries by connecting consumer goods companies with manufacturing solutions through the world-class PACK EXPO portfolio of trade shows, leading trade media and a wide range of resources to empower our members. The PACK EXPO trade shows unite the world of processing and packaging to advance the industries they serve: PACK EXPO International, PACK EXPO Las Vegas, Healthcare Packaging EXPO, PACK EXPO East, EXPO PACK México, EXPO PACK Guadalajara and ProFood Tech, launching in April 2017. PMMI Media Group connects manufacturers to the latest solutions, trends and innovations in processing and packaging year-round through brands including Packaging World, Automation World, Healthcare Packaging, Contract Packaging, ProFood World and Packaging + Processing OEM. PMMI Business Drivers assist members in pursuing operational excellence through workforce development initiatives, deliver actionable business intelligence on economic, market and industry trends to support members’ growth strategies, and actively connect the supply chain throughout the year.