What: Focus on the food. It must look and taste good, have ingredient integrity, and keep, cook or retherm well. “Functionality is paramount to packaging,” advises Rick Stein, VP of fresh foods at Arlington, Va.-based FMI – The Food Industry Association. “Consumers tell us that packaging is wasteful only if it doesn’t serve a function. Food safety and integrity are the biggest considerations.”
When: “Shoppers want to know when pre-packaged grocery and deli-prepared foods were made — more so than where,” Stein stresses. “Provide clear use-by or best-by dates on the package.”
According to the 2021 “Power of Foodservice at Retail” report from FMI, 38% of pre-packaged grocery deli-prepared foods are typically purchased for immediate or same-day consumption, and 46% are intended equally for same-day or later-in-the-week consumption.
Who (and How): Consider who your end user is and what they need to know. “Our packaging complements lifestyle needs,” says Jewel Hunt, group VP of deli, foodservice, bakery and branded concepts at Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Cos. “For example, we offer Ready to Eat and Ready to Cook options in packaging that works in both microwave and ovens.” Hunt notes that package developers need to be sure that customers, no matter their kitchen skills, know their next steps, such as whether the meal is ready for the oven, the microwave or the table. Does the consumer need to pierce the top? Is there any mixing involved? “It’s important to offer easy-to-read labels and ingredients that complement the packaging,” she advises.
Why: Ask your customers for their opinions on packaging as well as the food. “We are consistently listening to feedback from our customers and implementing packaging that resonates with them,” says Teresa Sabatino, director of customer marketing at Home Chef, which is owned by Cincinnati-based Kroger. “Based on customer feedback, we’re refreshing our retail packaging with new top-down photography [and] a balance of white space and color, among other new packaging elements.”
Packaging is an extension of in-store branding and experience. It’s also an opportunity to talk to your consumers as they spend time with it in their homes. Make sure it’s worthy of their attention.