It is no secret that food waste is a growing problem, doubling per person over the last 40 years. Today, up to 40 percent of the available food supply is not consumed, sending approximately 133 billion pounds of food to the landfill and costing Americans the equivalent of $161 billion each year, according to Department of Agriculture figures. Fortunately, as a recent Mintel study shows, consumers are taking notice, with a majority stating they are concerned or very concerned about the amount of food wasted.
Packaging plays a vital role in addressing food waste challenges, and consumers have shown a preference for packaging options that can prevent food from going bad. In fact, the Mintel study shows that a majority of consumers claim they would even pay more for packaging with features such as resealability or portion control.
As such, brands that utilize packaging options conducive to reducing food spoilage can stand out on the shelf and gain consumer loyalty and preference. To do so, brands must be aware of and utilize packaging options that can best limit spoilage, including proper barrier properties for the product, reclosable options and alternative packaging formats.
There are many different ways that food can be spoiled, including exposure to air, moisture and sunlight. Packaging must have the proper barrier properties to address each of these factors. Contact with air greatly decreases the lifespan of food by reducing its nutritional value and flavor, changing its appearance and allowing microorganisms that require oxygen to flourish. Humidity and moisture can ruin a consumer’s experience with the product by deteriorating or softening the food and making it unappetizing. Sunlight can lead to alterations in color, nutritional value or taste. These damaging effects can be reduced with packaging that utilizes multilayered films capable of mitigating the impact of outside elements.
Additionally, many consumers would like to see the food product when making a purchasing decision. Nearly 40 percent of consumers would prioritize a food product over another if that packaging had a clear barrier to view its contents. Utilizing clear barrier packaging technologies can certainly enhance shelf appeal by allowing product visibility to consumers. However, brands aiming to take advantage of this trend must be sure to utilize a material that can still provide protection from moisture and oxygen.
Barrier properties can only protect the product as long as the package is closed. As such, having the option to reseal a food package is not only convenient but necessary to preserve quality and freshness. Reclosable packaging options give consumers the opportunity to again fully utilize the barrier properties of the package and prevent air or contaminants from entering. In an Australian study on packaging’s role in minimizing food waste, 81 percent of consumers indicate they would choose a resealable package over one that is non-resealable.
Due to this preference for resealability, consumers will often transfer a product to a clear, resealable package, such as a plastic bag or rigid container, after opening. This is hugely detrimental to one of the most important touchpoints a brand has with the consumer. Therefore, brands with a resealable option are advantaged by the fact that consumers will keep the original, branded packaging throughout the entire product lifecycle.
Brands have many packaging formats to choose from today, including those that can offer the proper barrier properties and resealability necessary to prevent food waste. A glass container, for instance, offers an impermeable and sturdy packaging format that protects its contents from moisture and oxygen. Rigid plastics offer a lightweight option while still delivering high barrier properties and visibility.
Flexible packaging, however, offers important additional characteristics that can help brands and consumers reduce food waste. The format better enables multi-layered films and offers more reclosable options than rigid. Flexible packaging also offers more options to right-size a package. This promotes a design that perfectly fits the food product, better protecting it from movement and damage, and reducing the amount of oxygen present within the package. Consumers can also easily squeeze the air out of a package after each use, reducing the amount of oxygen impacting the food product and lengthening the time it is safe to eat. When using rigid packaging, users do not have the option to remove oxygen between uses before resealing it.
One More Step
For brand owners looking to reduce food waste and connect with consumers there is one last critical consideration: selecting the right suppliers and engaging them early in your company’s product development stages. An early start and open communication are the keys to success in making a smooth transition to a flexible format that will seal in freshness and reduce food waste for better brand appeal. Ensure your partners understand your markets, are excellent listeners, and are capable of meeting your product’s specific needs.