For rushed, time-pressed consumers, convenience is king. The food delivery and “grab and go” market is booming, with Morgan Stanley projecting that “the total U.S. food delivery market could grow to as much as $210 billion over the long term, from around $11 billion today.” This growth amplifies the need to maintain a competitive advantage, and for those in the restaurant and food industry, that means choosing the right packaging.
Today’s packaging is multi-faceted. More than a simple shipping tool, a box protects, preserves, introduces and showcases a product. Additionally, as the number of eco-conscious consumers rise, so does the pressure for companies to reduce wasteful packaging and offer sustainable options.
And that’s not all. Trends in packaging now ask that businesses also create a satisfying and memorable unboxing user experience. To set itself apart from the competition, businesses should consider the following six essential factors.
The future is minimalistic, with trends leaning toward simplistic designs rather than those with graphic and information overkill. Simplicity is fast replacing cluttered designs as a way to communicate information instantly and efficiently.
Simplicity is fast replacing cluttered designs as a way to communicate information instantly and efficiently.
The best way to keep and attract attention is by featuring only the most relevant information on the box. Tiny print and copy overload will cloud the brand and its message. Instead, it’s best to use big fonts and bold, cheeky colors. Long gone are the consumers who enjoyed familiarity.
Now, risky styles have taken over store shelves. Upscale luxury is also no longer reserved for the elite brands. To entice everyday consumers, premium details such as soft-touch coating, spot high-gloss coating or foil stamping can give packaging that extra wow factor.
Whimsical and innovative packaging satisfies modern consumers’ desires for new experiences and adventures. Consumers crave daring box designs that beg to be touched. Packages that deliver enjoyable tactile and visual experiences can cement customer loyalty and engagement.
Opening a box should be comparable to lifting the lid on a display case. Everything inside should be clean and organized, free of chaos and clutter. Items should be neatly compartmentalized with dividers made of corrugated cardboard, foam inserts or crinkle paper. Other little touches such as embossed stickers, vellum sheets, ribbons and pouches convey joy and surprise, a sentiment akin to opening a birthday present.
Unboxing a product should produce an unforgettable experience that customers will want to share on social media, thus generating positive, user-generated content and word-of-mouth buzz.
The flexibility of digital printing has led to an unprecedented amount of product personalization. Today’s printing technology allows for exclusive and inexpensive options such as short runs, promotional packs and experimental designs. For this reason, inventory can be rapidly developed to appeal to specific demographics and adapt to trends with a shorter market life. As well, one-of-a-kind creations, such as runs with popular names or mini-branded food products, generate excitement, which translates into desirable, shareable experiences. Inserts such as highly personalized coupons or personal messaging can also be printed with ease, conveying customer appreciation and adding value to their experience.
In the past, sustainable packaging meant that it could be recycled. But after alarming reports surfaced about massive food waste and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, consumers are demanding accountability. Those in the food industry were particularly shocked to learn that their black, plastic meal trays were sent directly to landfills and incinerators because recycling plants’ infrared sensors were unable to spot the color black.
Unboxing a product should produce an unforgettable experience that customers will want to share on social media.
As a result, companies have had to revise their innovations with options such as high-barrier fiber-based trays and PET trays made from bottle flakes. The use of flexible packaging, such as lightweight pouches, is also growing because of its ability to extend shelf life and increase fuel efficiency in shipping operations.
Bioplastic, which is made from renewable biomass, is also a great option for dry or greasy products.
Lastly, when it comes to sustainability, retailers must be aware that using the wrong packaging may potentially increase food waste, so education is the key to preventing ill-informed decisions.
Replicating the restaurant experience with takeaway food is extremely challenging. Preserving the food’s condensation and freshness upon arrival is difficult to achieve, but several packaging systems are being developed to help maintain the desired consistency. Flameless heating systems, for instance, can fit into insulated bags and keep food warm for up to 45 minutes. As an added benefit, these systems are also completely recyclable.
When it comes to fried food, packaging with specialized air vents can be used to maintain its crispy texture. The meal kit industry has also developed packaging made from compostable jute, which keeps perishable food items cool during shipping. Smart packaging is also in development for pre-packaged food and drinks. The system, which can be controlled from the convenience of a smart device, uses temperature sensors activated by radio frequency to heat a metal induction pad.
Edible packaging is an important development in the fight to reduce waste and one-use packaging. As the demand increases, so are the innovations. Current options include wrappers made from seaweed, spoons made from cornstarch and plates composed of wheat bran.
Edible packaging is an important development in the fight to reduce waste and one-use packaging.
However, not all edible packaging concepts would require that customers actually chow down on their cups or plates. Instead, the new norm would consist of products such as dissolvable milk pods for coffee, or coatings that would replace today’s wasteful and non-recyclable plastic films.
Examples of these include electrostatic gel derived from fruit to coat soft foods or milk-based proteins to wrap cheese. The ideas are limitless, and scientists are working hard to develop sustainable solutions that will ensure hygiene, prevent food waste and withstand the rigors of modern distribution.