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US: A consumer take on food and beverage packaging

From purchase off the shelf through consumption, packaging for food and beverages evolves to intersect with consumer needs and priorities. Food and beverage categories and brands have benefited significantly when manufacturers and retailers have managed to fuse packaging innovation with emerging consumer trends.

To further take advantage of the dynamic environment, according to Food and Beverage Packaging Trends in the US, a just-released report from Packaged Facts, manufacturers and retailers must understand what matters most to consumers, and which packaging innovations deliver benefits that actually impact behaviour.

The food packaging features most important to consumers confirm the importance of product convenience. Resealability and easy to open/close head up the list of attributed most valued by consumers, followed by the ability to maintain freshness.

Less important features include attractiveness of design and, perhaps more surprisingly, a realistic image of the product. And only 20% indicated that the ability to microwave in the package is especially important, although that’s an increasingly popular package feature for frozen foods.

With beverages, as with food products, consumers prize convenience-oriented features, including packaging that is easy to open and close, easy to pour and serve, and easy to hold. Packaging that makes it easy to eat or drink on the go ranked further down on the list, despite the popularity of single serve and other convenient beverage formats.

Product freshness again ranks high, and is especially important in milk, juices, and ground coffee. Consumers also ranked environmentally friendly packaging as fairly high in importance.

While consumers generally aren’t dissatisfied with the packaging options available to them, innovative packaging is a value-add that can determine product format or brand choice, according to David Sprinkle, the publisher of Packaged Facts – especially since consumers aren’t totally happy with packaging choices, either.

Paradoxically, and perhaps unfairly, they don’t necessarily think highly of manufacturers’ packaging efforts.

Packaged Facts survey data show that 60% of consumers strongly or somewhat agree that manufacturers often make insignificant packaging changes. And 45% think lighter weight or less bulky packaging is important.

Survey responses also turn up some common complaints across major food and beverage categories, with most clustering around consumer frustrations with package opening and closing, resealing, maintaining freshness, and food safety issues.

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