With the new year fast approaching, most of us have shifted focus and started forecasting and planning for next years projects while looking forward to celebrating the holiday season. But year end presents an opportune time to reflect back on the evolution of the industry, consider changing trends, and think ahead to what is to come. So before jumping ahead to the New Year and leaving 2016 in the dust, we sifted through surveys, articles and customer feedback from the past year to compile a list of 5 key trends in the food and foodservice packaging industry that will continue to influence packaging decisions in 2017.
Read on for our take on the 5 food packaging trends to watch out for in the upcoming year:
- Environment vs. Economics
Over the past year we have seen a significant uptick in requests for “sustainable” or “green” packaging solutions; and pressure on brand owners, particularly from the millennial generation, to make sustainability an integral part of corporate culture has moved this issue to the forefront of packaging decisions. In a recent trends report from FPI, concerns about sustainability, recyclability, and environmentally friendly products were prominently expressed. However, while providing a sustainable packaging solution has become a priority, price continues to be an important concern. This in turn has resulted in an increased interest in mineral filled products and light-weighting initiatives, which can help customers achieve both their environmental and economic goals.
- Increased interest in polypropylene
2016 brought with it an increased interest in polypropylene, and customers from all market verticals inquired about evaluating this polymer for inter-material replacement opportunities. Those who had never used polypropylene were not familiar with all of the advantages that could be gained from switching to this polymer - it’s high heat tolerance, light weight, sustainability attributes, and yield advantages make it an attractive option for food and foodservice applications. In addition, UltraClear polypropylene sheet now makes it possible to take advantage of all of these benefits without sacrificing aesthetics and consumer appeal. Considering all of these benefits we anticipate demand for this product will continue to grow as more applications transition to PP.
An increased trend towards clear packaging with visual appeal is gaining momentum and can be seen in nearly all isles of the grocery store. A recent article in Convenience Store Decisions portrayed clarity in food packaging as a representation of trust and wholesome ingredients in the eyes of the consumer, stating, “To today’s consumers, transparency equals trust. Not just in how foods are sourced and produced, but also in how they are packaged for grab and go.” Clarity in food packaging could also ultimately influence a consumers decision to choose one item over another:
“38% of consumers said they would be motivated to choose one food product over another if the packaging allowed them to view the contents… It has long been known that consumers eat first with their eyes, so see-through packaging is the best way to tempt consumers to grab a tasty-looking sandwich, salad or snack from a convenience store cooler.” (Marilyn Odesser-Torpey, Convenience Store Decisions)Versatile clear packaging materials such as UltraClear polypropylene sheet allow brand owners to realize the benefits of clear packaging in the form of dual-use containers suitable for both hot and cold food items.
- Convenience / grab and go
A trend toward convenience is quickly growing as consumers seek healthy, wholesome food options that can be purchased on-the-go in ready-to-eat packaging. Items that come in resealable & reheatable packaging allow the consumer to use as much or as little of the product, while still keeping the food fresh to eat at a later date. Evidence of this trend is manifested in the rise of the 'grocerant' – a result of the increasingly blurred lines between restaurants and grocery stores aimed at the time-starved customer seeking convenient, healthy options on-the-go.
Millennial influence is an important element of the convenience trend with PlasticsToday reporting that food shoppers ages 18-34 have been shown to be more likely to express interest in packaging that allows food to be consumed on-the-go. In addition, Forbes reported that more than 40% of the US population purchases prepared meals from grocery stores. Items packaged in re-closable, easy-to-open, on-the-go containers will see success in this fresh format market, which is projected to experience double-digit growth over the next three years.
Requests for more customization have increased, as brand owners strive to develop relationships and brand loyalty in a market where the consumer is inundated with choices:
“Price is a key factor in consumers’ purchasing decisions, but brand trust also plays a pivotal role. Brands can leverage trust to create loyalty and extend a product portfolio well beyond traditional categories… The time is now for brands to roll out unique packaging structures that not only differentiate on shelf, but also help form and support brand identity.” (Global Packaging Trends 2017, Mintel)Again, we see the millennial generation dramatically influencing this trend – limited release products or personalized packaging speak to the millennial generation’s desire to participate in new trends. As a result we anticipate requests for packaging unique to brands, specialty thermoformed items for specific applications, and limited release items will continue to increase.
From all of us at Impact Plastics, we wish you a happy and healthy New Year and look forward to look forward to assisting you with your plastic sheet needs in the 2017 year.
Inspired by these trends? Contact our team to discuss your next project for 2017: