Packaging plays an important role in the protection, transportation, preservation and labeling of food products. Food packaging is with 28.6% the second largest packaging market and projected to grow at an annual rate of 2.7% till 2022 reaching 278.2 billion (1). Asia is the largest market for food packaging, followed by North America and Western Europe.
The role of food packaging is evolving in an accelerated manner, the way brands design, pack and distribute products is changing. To feed a growing and more urban population, packaging plays an effective role in the food supply chain. Food packaging supports safe transportation and extends the shelf life of many food products. The food packaging must retain its primary purpose but as well it must be reused and recycled to address sustainability challenges.
Consumers and brands are continually demanding more from packaging, ranging from sustainability to enhanced ease of use. The packaging must be fit for its purpose –neither more nor less. This is where we are talking about an optimized package design -no under-packaging generating food waste, no over-packing generating unnecessary waste.
Online food shopping & delivery services are setting new challenges for the packaging and the required transportation. Further convenience with meal kit delivery is rising. Overall the food market we refer to covers dairy products, fresh food, dry food and snacks, frozen food and pet food.
Packaged food production is driven by a growing and richer population. Lifestyle changes such as urbanization, people on-the-go, single person households, growing demand for health products, new retail formats, e-commerce and new social behaviors are shaping packaging trends.
There are many more products available today - more flavors, colors, low-fat, low-salt, gluten-free, allergen-free, vegetarian, VOC-free and many other categories or varieties of the main product. Growing number of references, shorter life times, smaller pack sizes, customization and overall convenience - microwaveable and easy opening - is changing the packaging production.
The big Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) growth is slowing down in favor to local brands (little CPG) developing faster as more agile and perceived as socially responsible. At the same time, international retail chains are expanding their presence in developing markets growing packaging demand and bringing more consumers into Western shopping patterns.
Meal kits are new and growing forms of food. They appeal mostly to Millennials and Generation X, especially among single people and men. The convenience allows busy consumers to cook and eat healthy meals with perfect portion sizes leading to less food waste for single people, who might find many produce options available at the grocery store too large for their needs.
We see increasing legislations on food product information meaning a relevant, accurate and easy-to-understand information shown in a legible way for consumers in their languages. We witness as well growing pressure on brand owners and retailers to reduce the environmental impact of packaging, we see package lightweighting, focusing on the 3Rs: reduce, re-use and recycling.
In 2018, consumers have researched before they buy more than ever, and that includes food. With a quick search on their smartphones, consumers can make informed and speedy decisions about the products they consume. Which foods provide the protein and energy boost needed for a workout? Which drinks promote healthier skin? Where does the food come from? What are the core values and history of the company manufacturing the product? Successful food businesses will use digital and social platforms to connect with consumers, providing robust product research avenues, tips, stories, forums and more for the information hungry consumer. Harnessing the internet of things and big data are important parts of that overall strategy as well. Packaging will have a totally new role to play.
The combination of all trends requires more packaging designs, a decline of the average run length of a given packaging run and a faster time-to market. All putting even more pressure on the packaging converters.