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13 August 2019

Grab and go life: how products and packaging are being adapted to suit today’s lifestyles

As the daily grind gets ever busier, individuals are finding less time to prepare and consume their meals. Our US senior creative and strategy director, Jennifer Gaeto expores what this means for packaging…

With the increasing complexity of consumers’ lifestyles, in no small part due to the ubiquity of work commitments and 24-hour connectivity combined with the demands of family life, individuals are devoting less time than ever to food preparation and consumption.

This lifestyle trend is reflected in the growth of food and drink products specially developed for ease and convenience, and as an inevitable counterpart, the development of convenient packaging.

But there is evidence that a psychological reason lies behind the growth, as it’s been found that consumers feel rewarded when they reach for goods they perceive as convenient. Research from Princeton University has shown that working adults “report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase”. In other words, we get a boost from buying things that we perceive will save us from stress and wasted time.

The trend is paying dividends for meal kit purveyors like Purple Carrot and Hello Fresh, who have enabled consumers to find a happy medium between cooking dinner at home and getting cooked food delivered.

However, it isn’t just about the evening meal. Products for convenience are growing in most sectors of FMCG, from breakfast bars and shakes to lunchtime snacks. So, what do brands need to know about convenience and packaging?

Here are five ways in which packaging is working alongside products to make goods more convenient for consumers…

Easy to carry. Flexible, non-rigid packaging is the standard for on-the-go consumption. Along with easy-open packs, design needs to be innovative, lightweight, and eye-catching, as well as immediately recognizable as a product that will easily fit into a busy lifestyle. Consumers want a pack they can easily throw into their bag or strap to their bike luggage rack, even after opening, so it needs to demonstrate sturdiness and resealability, too. Visual cues to guide the user behavior in opening and storing the package are also important.

Snackable sizes. According to refrigeratedfrozenfood.com, designing ergonomic packaging on small sizes can present a challenge, and it may be necessary to consider packaging shapes and textures that promote grip, especially if the product is “sweating” as a result of temperature change. Snack sizes also give a smaller space to communicate brand messaging and product information to customers and the life-cycle of packaging means that on-the-go packs in particular have the tendency to morph into rolled-up tubes, wrinkled pouches or crunched bottles, which “do little to promote the brand or maintain ergonomic comfort and usability.” For these reasons, the portability of the product needs to be a factor in the design from the very earliest stages, and a consideration throughout.

Better for e-commerce. Ensuring that the product isn’t just convenient to hold, but convenient to ship as well. Although the US lags behind other developed nations as an FMCG online market, e-commerce is slowly taking hold. In the US e-commerce currently represents only 3% of all grocery sales, while it accounts for 9% in the UK, about 5.5% in France and is approaching 20% in South Korea, where the urban density (and digitally savvy population) make this option popular. Lighter packaging with less wasted air space contributes to easier transport and results in a lower carbon footprint. And with it, more goods can be delivered with less volume, all translating into a more economical, more convenient delivery for the consumer.

Lasts longer. Keeping products safe and fresh, and helping them to last longer, is one of the more esoteric, yet indispensable, factors involved in product packaging. Containers that keep products air-tight (and don’t leak) are important, and there is interest in developing materials that carry their own antimicrobial properties. Companies are now investing heavily in research and development to discover substrates with the potential to raise standards of safety, helping to extend the shelf life of foods and vegetables while ensuring the integrity of the packaging is retained over longer periods of time.

Easier recycling post-life. Consumers, particularly in the younger demographics, are increasingly considering sustainability as a central motivator in purchases. So in addition to the factors listed above, ensuring that packaging can be conveniently recycled is of great importance. Innovation in flexible packaging is now largely concerned with a move away from petroleum-based plastics. Last year, bio-based seaweed-tech garnered attention with Ooho water pouches billed as "water you can eat". As companies pursue a 100% natural alternative to plastic bottles, bio-based plastics and other materials well-suited for flexible consumer package for liquids will continue to top the agenda.

Materials

According to packworld.com, convenience lifestyle trends have combined with advancements in technology to contribute to a gradual decline of rigid pack formats, with a rise of flexible packaging occurring over approximately the last 10 years. Flexible packaging is expected to further expand, with growth forecast at an annual rate of 4.3% to reach $282.6 billion by 2022.

Within flexible packaging, pouches, and particularly stand-up pouches are the fastest-growing category – with a new generation of vertical form-fill systems coming to the fore, which can deliver faster production speeds, greater versatility, and improved sealing techniques.

Not only is packaging becoming more lightweight, but consumers are also demanding the use of more recycled and recyclable polymers in packaging, including the early use of bioplastic packaging.

The hunger for quick and convenient food options that are easy to store, easy to carry, and easy to cook shows no sign of slowing. If you are interested in bringing your product packaging to the cutting edge of this trend, contact the Equator team to find out more.

 

Sources:
https://www.refrigeratedfrozenfood.com/articles/96532-energizing-product-packaging-with-ergonomic-designs
https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/07/18/1706541114