A tremendous outburst of creativity in packaging has happened over the last several years. Retailers, their supplier partners and, especially, packaging companies should take advantage of the many innovations that not only improve product usage but also make them more salable. However, everyone in the supply chain should be careful to obey the disciplines imposed by the shelf environment as they enjoy the fruits of the designers’ inventiveness.

New designs address a host of consumers’ needs. They’re looking for convenience in a variety of environments and many different ways, be it on the dashboard of their car, on their bike, in the gym or just plain walking. A presentation recently delivered at the Food Evolution Summit, by Aaron Brody of Packaging/Brody Inc., pointed out that many consumers are seeking to preserve, prepare and consume the food product all from the same container. To do this they need easy-open and reclosable packaging. They want ease of access to the product and, in many cases, want it to be spoonable or pourable.

Package designers have inventively responded over the past several years with a considerable flow of new packaging. There are packages that feature flexible pouches that can stand up on a square bottom, as well as packages that provide ease of access of multiples, as well as those that are portion-sized. There are retort pouches and trays. Refrigerated prepared foods in microwave reheatable plastic are also part of the flow of new ideas. Packages specifically designed for dashboard dining are another example. Especially important for fresh cut vegetables and fruits is product visibility. Shrink film bundling has grown in usage.

This is great because it provides consumers with many of the benefits they seek. These developments also promote new product introductions that can bring new business to retail aisles. Indeed, there is tremendous pressure to bring new products to the shelf, and packaging does have an extremely important role to play in achieving success with recently launched items by providing freshness, visibility and appeal.

However, the caveat is this: The product must fit the dimensions of the shelf and must lend itself to presentation in a mass-market, self-service environment. It has to pay attention to space requirements in that it should not be an outsized package taking up too much space. It must meet labeling requirements. It has to present information to the consumers in the split second that the consumer’s eye surveys the shelf.

Many of the new packages will indeed fit the specifications and the discipline of the shelf. But package designers and product suppliers must keep a close eye on what retailers can adequately handle in their stores. Not doing so could wreck a product, which adequately packaged to conform to shelf discipline and requirements could be a winner, not a problem. Doing so could very well make a good product an enormous success on the shelf through its packing and presentation. F&BP