Product specificity: New Seasons replaced a branded bag with a plastic clamshell that maintains the temperature of rotisserie chickens. In addition to being convenient for shoppers, chickens stay at a safe temperature so they don’t have to be discarded if unsold that day. “Rather than go in the trash, we reuse them in soup or salad,” explains Anderson.
With sushi, New Seasons uses a customized clear poké bowl that makes all layers visible. “If it had a black plastic bottom, you’d hardly see anything,” adds Anderson. “It’s attractive food you must show off.”
For his part, Posada notes that more retailers are “specializing” with sushi packaging, which “used to be a stock item.”
Sustainability: The importance of sustainability is growing. ProAmpac’s fiber-based packaging is fully recyclable once the clear window is removed. While this type of packaging can be more costly, it’s also lighter, affording more transportation savings from both weight and volume perspectives. “You can fit much more in a truck load or pallet,” says Randles.
InLine’s PET products contain 10% post-consumer content, according to Cline. Its clear containers, namely hot food ones, are fully recyclable. “Hot foods have traditionally been packaged using a black-based component,” she continues. “They’re challenging to sort at materials recovery facilities and end up in landfills.”
New Seasons is serious about sustainability. The grocer sources plastic that’s 100% post-consumer recycled. In-store eating areas let consumers dispose of food items responsibly, according to Anderson. Additionally, the company tries to educate shoppers about sustainability. “Our huge passion for sustainability guides much purchasing,” she adds.
Supermarkets’ growing roster of packaging demands sometimes challenges the industry in that adding certain packaging attributes can compromise others. “Finding the right balance between sustainability, convenience and safety is the biggest and most on-trend challenge,” admits Cline.
There has never been a better time to be in the prepared food packaging industry, however.