Food packaging over the years has taken on many sizes, shapes, purposes and even causes – but in today’s market, it has to do it all. Consumers want fresher, healthier food with fewer ingredients – packaged in smaller sizes. They want to be able to access food products in the most convenient way for them – whether it be at a local retail outlet, club store or online. They seek sustainability, waste reduction and improved food safety. Food packagers are continually challenged to meet these consumer demands.

As consumers continue to become more comfortable ordering groceries online, the rules of packaging for this expanding e-commerce marketplace continue to change. With e-commerce, packaging acts as a brand ambassador. How the product appears, how it is protected, even how the product is packed – for example, whether there is too much packaging and if it is recyclable – can reflect positively or negatively on the brand. New packaging options and solutions are being looked at to improve this important and growing market segment. At the same time, the industry is seeking some type of standardization of the packaging for e-commerce to improve efficiencies, streamline distribution and facilitate cross-branding.

In the more traditional retail environment, with the many choices in packaged food products crowding retail shelves, a consumer’s purchasing decisions often depend on a brand’s ability to stand out from the competition. According to a study by Mintel (, more than half (52%) of U.S. food shoppers are drawn to packaging with unusual or eye-catching designs.

One example is the success of Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign, which offered nearly limitless naming options, inviting consumers to buy a personalized bottle for a friend. Customization helped Coca-Cola achieve the largest year-over-year growth in 20-ounce packaging in its history – more than 19%. This success demonstrates the importance of the custom experience to engage consumers.

Ensuring food safety while reducing food waste is another consumer priority impacting packaging designs. Consumers want fresher food with extended shelf-life. Not only has new packaging and processing technology been developed to extend the shelf life of food, but technology built into packaging – such as freshness sensors – will alert consumers regarding shelf life and food safety in order to reduce food waste.

One technology gaining importance is high pressure processing (HPP). This post-packaging process utilizes high pressure rather than heat to extend the shelf life of fresh food, with minimal impact on taste and texture. The Cold Pressure Council, newly convened by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, is working on best practices for this
growing technology.

With the traditional three-meal-a-day eating pattern gone the way of vinyl records and bell bottoms, what was once a breakfast sandwich, may now serve as a late-day snack or tomorrow’s lunch. As consumers’ have adopted more haphazard eating habits to coincide with their fast-paced lives, they are looking for smaller, on-the-go portions and healthier options. Smaller sizes and resealable packages continue to grow; and there is a greater emphasis on higher value, unique packaging that engages the consumer. Additionally, looks matter. To survive on the shelf (or even in the mail), packaging must be attractive to consumers and capture their attention.

Many new advances in food packaging will be on display at PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2017 (Sept. 25-27, Las Vegas Convention Center). The show serves as the largest event in North America for packaging. To see the latest award-winning packaging innovations, visit the Showcase of Packaging Innovations® sponsored by Dow Chemical Company, located in the Lower South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. In addition, free Innovation Stage on-floor education sessions will inform attendees on ground-breaking technologies, such as HPP, to meet consumer demands.

Co-located with Healthcare Packaging EXPO, the show will feature solutions from more than 2,000 exhibitors and will be attended by 30,000 packaging industry professionals. Learn more, and register, at

PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, represents more than 800 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 connect consumer goods companies with manufacturing solutions through the PACK EXPO portfolio of trade shows, leading trade media and a wide range of resources to empower our members. PMMI Media Group connects manufacturers to the latest solutions, trends and innovations in packaging and processing year-round. PMMI Business Drivers assist members in pursuing operational excellence through workforce development initiatives.

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