How consumer trends have influenced dairy packaging
Look behind what’s on today’s retail shelves, and the strength of consumer trends shaping dairy packaging is obvious.
Here are just five trends (out of the many) and how they’ve impacted dairy product packaging:
- Need for authentication — dealing with counterfeiting
- Convenience — smaller, resealable, easily held, ready to eat
- Environmental concerns — glass containers, renewable caps made from plants
- Health — lunchbox-friendly, portion control
- Packaging innovation — saving manufacturing resources, using fridge space well
Here are the five trends in more detail. Below them you’ll find coding implications dairy product processors need to consider with these trends. (See here for coding, labelling and inspection in the dairy industry.)
- Need for authentication
Counterfeit products harm company bottom lines. But even more importantly, they pose a public-health risk in the case of dairy (as well as other foods and pharmaceuticals).
Consumers want to know they’re buying the genuine product and not a counterfeit, so they need ways to authenticate that. Serialisation is one such method. Serialisation is the process of putting a unique number on a product. (Here’s a run-through on what you need to do.) It’s not a new idea, but it’s come back into the spotlight because of its benefits in an increasingly complex, and an increasingly global, supply chain.
It’s the answer to the lack of real-time transparency with products changing ownership several times in the supply chain, because serialised, unique identification enables traceability and authentication — whether that’s via chain of custody systems, chain of ownership, product-identifier authentication, or recall; and readily available technology can be used with all of these.
In the last 12 months, we’ve seen more than one issue with counterfeiting, and coding and labelling problems in baby formula. Serialisation gives companies the ability to build and enhance consumer trust through product verification or authentication. And consumer trust, of course, is the holy grail for any business, driving long-term customer loyalty.
In Rabobank’s report Australian Dairy – More milk matters released in October this year, senior dairy analyst Michael Harvey said, “Many offshore customers place a strong importance on high-quality, safe products with strong traceability across supply chains, and these factors mean that Australia is a favoured exporter.”
Time-poor consumers have had a big impact on packaging: they have a desire for food convenience and a willingness to pay for that convenience.
“Convenient” dairy foods need different packaging — smaller, resealable, and able to hold ready-to-eat dairy foods. Think resealable zip-lock pouches for shredded cheese, packs that need to keep cheese and crackers fresh, and flexible pouches of yoghurt that fit in school lunch boxes or the gym bags of exercisers for their “post-workout protein top-up” — essentially the same packaging, but with different branding, suiting two different markets.
Australia was the first market Chobani trialled its Greek yoghurt in re-closable, 140-gram pouches. Chobani Australia managing director Peter Meek said, “Feedback from our customers was that they would love to enjoy Chobani while they’re out and about, so we’ve developed Chobani pouches to meet that need — no spoon required!”
A convenience trend in the foodservice sector has seen bain marie-ready pouches of cheese as an alternative to bulk packaging for crumbles and shreds. The pre-portioned pouches are designed to be put straight into a standard-size foodservice pan, not only increasing convenience, but also food safety by removing the need to reseal (and potentially re-label) large bags of opened cheese.
- Environmental concerns
The number of products on the shelf with green credentials is testament to consumers’ increasing demand for manufacturers across the board to show environmental stewardship.
In the USA, food and beverage glass container manufacturer Verallia North America has 113-gram (four ounce) and 170g (6oz) single-serve yoghurt containers — that are glass.
Phil McPherson, Verallia NA’s senior vice president and general manager for the food, beverage and spirits business sector, said the innovative packaging was an “eco-conscious alternative to standard plastic containers”, would “appeal to environmentally conscious consumers and respond to growing market trends for products that are holistically natural, organic and healthy”.
Verallia NA’s parent company has been producing glass jars for yoghurt in Europe since the 1970s.
Tetra Pak has also responded to the green call, with three renewable polyethylene caps made from plant-based sources.
Dennis Jönsson, Tetra Pak President and CEO said, “Today’s global consumer increasingly demands green packaging.”
Nestle Brazil has been putting two of its popular milk brands in Tetra Brik Aseptic packages using the green PE StreamCap 1000 for the past couple of years. The company says it’s given them the opportunity to increase their products’ environmental performance — “something which consumers increasingly care about and expect when it comes to packaging”.
A growing social awareness of the need for healthy eating has seen an increase in portion control (PC) packages. Weight management and managing health problems, such as cholesterol, often drive this.
PC packs are generally smaller, with lunchbox-friendly cheese snacks and drinkable yogurts good examples of “bite size” dairy foods. (This type of packaging also neatly fits the convenience trend.)
Chris Brockman, regional manager of food and drink for Mintel Europe, Middle East and Africa, said because older people are common users of PC packs, an associated trend is ease of use, so making PC packaging easier to open.
- Packaging innovation
In the USA, Dean Foods has developed new packaging for its cottage cheeses. At the beginning of this year, the company started phasing out the customary round plastic tub. In its place is a rectangular resin one — but with one major difference: it has in-mould labelling. Essentially, it’s a one-step package-decorating method that’s helping the processor save time and money by assimilating the labelling process directly into the forming process.
Where’s the consumer angle here? While the new packaging saves manufacturing resources, it’s also answering consumer demand for ease of use — by making it easy to get every last morsel out and using fridge space well.
Dean Foods’ group vice president Rob Hollandsworth said, “The curved bottom profile of these packages allow consumers to easily scoop up every last bit of the product. Customers also tell us they love how they stack very well in their crowded refrigerators.”
For dairy product processors, there are several coding implications to consider with the above packaging trends:
- Can you use your existing coding equipment to print, say, serial numbers? Or onto packages with different shapes or substrates, such as flexible packaging?
- If packaging is made smaller for PC packs, are your code integrity and clarity maintained — even at high line speeds?
- What you need to do from a compliance perspective? A key here is to be flexible; don’t design and build or adapt a system that conforms to today’s regulations but can’t handle regulation changes tomorrow. (Because they will )
- Get expert advice and input. This can save you time and money not only by ensuring you get the best coding solution for your business’s needs but may well result in a more intelligent overall outcome.
- Are you getting the most out of your solution? Many companies don’t realise that by integrating coding with other aspects, such as inspection, they can ensure product quality before it leaves their premises.
If your current equipment is struggling to meet the demands of this evolving industry, this whitepaper may help.
Tel: 1300 CODING
* Mark Dingley is General Manager of Matthews Australasia. With 20+ years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with manufacturers and industry associations, Mark actively contributes to industry forums, magazines and the Matthews blog. An avid soccer fan, he also gets out on the field every Saturday, in between the “sports taxi run” for his family.