Delivering the complete package

By: Sun Branding Solutions  23/06/2009
Keywords: Packaging, Packaging Design, Packaging solutions

   The European food and beverage industry is continually evolving. New brands that promise to meet ‘current’ consumer criteria are constantly launching onto supermarket shelves and fighting for that ever-dwindling market share. Gillian Wight, Packaging Development Consultant at Sun Branding Solutions (formerly Watt Gilchrist), suggests that only the ones that are really differentiated will capture attention and travel from the shelf to the basket.  
For a product to be successful it needs to comply with the trends of the time. In the European food and beverage industry, the challenge for manufacturers is to create products that simultaneously satisfy the need for health, convenience and the environment. But the product itself only tells half the story. It is the outward representation of a product that really shapes its image in the consumer’s eye and gives that all-important first impression of a brand. As such, a product’s packaging needs to offer an accurate portrayal of what is on the inside, so reinforcing its compliance with the trends that attract consumers to buy.  
Health buzz
Health and wellbeing have been significant fixtures on the consumer agenda for a number of years. People are more aware than ever before of the role that diet has to play in a healthy lifestyle and as such, are turning their backs on processed ‘junk-style’ foods and carbonated drinks in favour of healthier alternatives and fresh juices. Approximately one in every seven litres of carbonated soft drinks sold in Europe is now a low calorie or ‘light’ variant, reflecting the consumer trend towards healthier living and fuelling the growth of packaged water, iced tea, juices and nectars in this sector.  
Hand-in-hand with the demand for healthier product goes packaging that exemplifies this trend. The design and format need to grab the attention of the target audience and reflect the contents inside. The juice smoothie brand Innocent achieves this balance very well. Its drinks are simple, healthy and fresh while the packaging is unadulterated and effortlessly appealing. Using plastic bottles so consumers can physically see what they are drinking, Innocent reflects its transparent ingredient policy. However, clear packaging is not always necessary to prove a product’s worth. If consumers have complete faith in a brand, they will happily purchase irrespective of whether they can see inside or not.   
Yakult probiotic yogurts are an example of this trust. One of the keys to the product’s success is that its health benefits are founded on proven research and this science is embodied in the ‘medicinal’ product packaging. The consumer cannot see what is inside, but the brand owners have played on the trusted ‘medicine cabinet’ theory with the simple format and basic use of colours and materials.   Convenience conundrum
 Convenience is another key factor in the consumer purchase decision. Twenty first-century consumers are under greater time pressures than ever before and are turning to multitasking in a bid to achieve more for less. However, the definition of the trend has evolved greatly since it first emerged on the scene some years ago. Consumers have married this trend with the desire for health and well being so that now, as opposed to the microwave meals considered revolutionary in the 1990s, customers are demanding ‘convenience ingredients’ that help consumers cook from scratch and deliver that all-important health requirement.   Purchases must also support lifestyles and these new active trends have given rise to on-the-go consumption and an emergence of packaging shapes and styles that are easier for consumers to handle. This trend is epitomised in the latest offering from Gallo Winery on its vineyard’s White Grenache wine. The company has launched a new petite handbag-style bag-in-box, which is made from a recyclable corrugated box and metallised PET bag. The ‘easy to carry, easy to cool, easy to share’ slogan is inherent in the design as it meets the rising consumer demands for on-the-go convenience, as well as environmental needs.    Nestlé has also jumped on the convenience bandwagon – but with a difference. The company cleverly realised that there was a gap in the market to create children’s convenience products that could be eaten on the move. As a result, strawberry- and raspberry-shaped packaging solutions, known as ‘Squashums’, were introduced into its Munch Bunch yoghurt range in parts of Europe. This format grabs the attention of its target audience with its vibrancy and colourful design whilst taking away the traditional method of consumption as it removes the need to use a spoon.  
Environmental engagement
In recent years, another theme has also inveigled its way into consumer consciousness. As the media turns its attention to the ever-growing concerns about the environment, so consumers are placing more importance on goods that help rather than harm the world. Recyclability of packaging waste has been an issue of growing importance, with Germany and Scandinavia taking a lead in Europe and the UK lagging behind.  
Environmental factors have also become a driving force in the development of packaging materials, such as biopolymers, in the food and beverage market. Products created using biopolymers are designed to minimise the amount of material used. Incorporation of the material can provide enhanced performance and technical benefits, such as a reduction in food waste and the material is also compostable. Product differentiation also plays a role in this trend, since the term ‘biodegradable’ evokes positive consumer associations.  
Creating reusable packaging is a common format for premium products where companies are concerned about the brand image associated with using environmentally friendly materials. A good example of a company doing this well is the UK-based supermarket Waitrose, which sells its luxury desserts in glass ramekins, which are often kept and reused by the consumer, or else recycled.  
By using responsible packaging on appropriate products, brands can really enhance their products’ environmental claims. From reducing the weight of the packaging or carbon footprint, using sustainable or biodegradable materials, or encouraging recycling, some or all of these can be incorporated into packaging development and help attract the more ‘green’ consumers.  
The Challenge
Increased spending power and consumer consciousness in Europe have created a more discerning and educated type of shopper, conscious of the effects of food and drink on their own well being and that of the world around them, while increasingly willing to spend more on products that suit their lifestyle and the contexts of consumption. So for brand owners the challenge is to create packaging that meets consumer needs for health and convenience in an environmentally responsible way.

Keywords: Brand Management, Food packaging, Packaging, Packaging Design, Packaging solutions