Fresh demands – food packaging transparency and customisation

25 May 2016

Consumers eat a lot of food outside of their homes, and the amount is growing. Additionally, there is increasing demand for fresh goods, often globally sourced. These two trends present huge opportunities for food services, which has become a crowded marketplace. Vendors must look at the role that innovative packaging plays and use it to differentiate their products and drive cost savings.

The foodservice industry used to be seen as a single-use, disposable and out-of-home eating market. However, ready meals, snacking and on-the-go food have impacted the market and packaging. Some examples of these include compartmentalised boxes, and intelligent and personalised packaging, which have become increasingly popular.

Emerging trends

Two influential trends to emerge are transparency and customisation. Consumers worry about quality, safety, ethics and environmental impact, and consequently packaging and product labelling has been transformed.

New methods such as visual authentication and intelligent packaging will be used to track and reveal contents and information about supply chains, and will continue to be improved to better deal with these concerns.

This not only gives consumers much wanted insight into where their goods have come from, but it gives organisations the opportunity to ensure that the products are transported in the ways that are the most environmentally friendly.

Packaging technologies that enable customisation for consumers and retailers will drive opportunities in the developed market.

In 2015, Nutella encouraged customers to write their own labels as part of the hugely successful 'make me yours' publicity campaign. Businesses have seen the benefits of digital printing through these campaigns and will continue to explore the strengths that come from using this technology.

Intelligent packaging

New technology in the market is focused on sustainability. Some companies have made the transition from non-recyclable plastics such as polystyrene to recyclable PET and bio-PET.

Bio-PET is an environmental and technological breakthrough that will allow companies to source plastic made from rapidly regenerating plants and agrowaste. Bio-PET's pricing is expected to be stable and predictable as production grows and will be sourced locally from Europe.

Intelligent packaging that changes colour when goods have been spoilt or damaged is also proving vital in reducing food waste.

Households throw out tons of food each year, most of which could be eaten, and food services waste even more. Smart wrapping will change colour when food is about to lose its freshness, when it has passed its best-before date or when it has been poorly refrigerated. This could help foodservice providers combat food poisoning, which can be detrimental to consumer trust and have lasting consequences for brand reputation.

Chill Buddy

At HAVI Global Solutions, new technologies continue to be key developmental priorities. In 2015, it introduced Chill Buddy into the market, a chilled product for the foodservice market that is made out of 99% reflective coating and maintains temperature without using any mechanical apparatus.

The slow temperature-bleed rates give far greater control over temperature for an extended period. This means reduced carbon emissions and fuel costs.

Sustainability is now the most important priority for food services. It impacts costs, savings, waste levels and customer loyalty. Consumers expect foodservice venues to reflect their own social conscience and environmental concerns and reward them for this. The foodservice packaging market is driven largely by the emergence of eco-friendly packaging technologies, which are inexpensive and manufactured from recycled material.

Fewer resources

Leading fast-food restaurant chain McDonald's has over 35,000 outlets worldwide. It is currently working to ensure that all the packaging it uses it the food it serves is 100% sustainable. This means that the company's focus is on using renewable, recyclable and fewer resources.

McDonald's is trying to achieve these ambitious goals with its four-pillar approach: it is changing to use wood fibre from recycled or certified forest sources, it is creating renewable across-the-counter packaging, it is using fewer resources in packaging and material redesign, and it is minimising restaurant waste headed to the landfill.

Simple health

Klaus Rueth, senior director of analytics and supply-chain services at HAVI Global Solutions says that there is a demand for simple and healthy ingredients.

Consumers want to buy natural food and fresh goods off the shelf. Rueth says: "A recent report revealed that the fresh-food market is worth $26 billion globally. It comes as no surprise that a number of food outlets, including Quick Service Restaurants, are including fresher products and ingredients in their menus."

With obesity epidemics in the headlines and a greater desire to know where the food we eat comes from, consumers are enriching their diets with fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish, as opposed to dried and preserved goods. "This brings new challenges for the packaging industry," Rueth says. "The maintenance of fresh foods requires specific packaging methods and particular treatment. The cold chain is a vital logistic system as it enhances food safety, reduces food loss and retains freshness."

Supply chains are complex processes that require planning and oversight. The cold food presents additional challenges:
increased costs from using refrigerated vehicles compressed timeframes from farm to fork due to perishable products reduced ability to fix planning errors or unforeseen changes food safety and quality-assurance processes due to perishable products.

It is essential, therefore, that priority is given to ensure proper planning and coordination at all levels of a company and with partners in the supply chain. Rueth says: "Those who manage the cold chain need to be included in product development, and marketing and sales discussions to provide insight into the costs and feasibility of moving specific ingredients and products through the cold chain. The complex procedure of transportation and warehousing must be given careful attention before the products reach their final point of sale."

Time is not an ally when it comes to perishable foods travelling in the cold-supply chain. Fourteen days is considered the maximum. Even in this short period, unforeseen challenges can occur. Rueth says: "Supply managers need to oversee all levels of the supply chain and coordinate with external stakeholders to be adaptable. For example, if buyers need to receive more products or have them shipped to a specific location, organisations must be able to respond quickly and efficiently."

Transport and logistics processes are more demanding in the cold-supply-chain industry. Only with appropriate packaging technology and careful handling can organisations mitigate risk and ensure fresher products.

"Consumers' demand for freshness in their food should not be ignored. When managed incorrectly, the impact can be great, effecting waste levels and the bottom line. But when executed correctly, the cold chain can offer strategic advantage to respond to ever-growing consumer demands." Rueth says.

Large-scale sustainability

Yum! Brands owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. It has bold sustainability goals and has made impressive accomplishments.

The company's goal is to purchase 100% of paper-based packaging with fibre from responsibly managed forests and recycled sources by 2020. Yum! Brands is positioned to provide environmentally preferable packaging to its customers around the globe while reducing its environmental impact. Its ability to serve food safely, quickly and conveniently is dependent upon disposable packaging. To support responsible packaging procurement, Yum! Brands depends on suppliers, manufacturers, converters, distributors and retailers to provide paper-packaging, and has devised the sustainable sourcing policy to guide its purchasing decisions.

]In 2013, Yum! Brands surveyed its global suppliers and gathered data on paper-based packaging sourcing to assess its current state. The survey asked questions about recycled and certified-fibre content, the country where the forest fibre came from, fibre species and environmental-management systems.

This survey allowed Yum! Brands to evaluate its paper-packaging supply base against its responsible-paper-sourcing policy. The company identified risks and took action in specific regions to avoid and phase out unwanted sources. It also identified opportunities to accelerate progress towards recycled or certified fibre sources. To ensure that best practice is followed, the company engages with suppliers and stakeholders. Last year, it sought input from the World Wildlife Fund for its responsible-paper-packaging policy to work towards phasing out or avoiding unwanted fibre sources, and establishing robust baselines, internal protocols, measurable regional targets and plans for sustainable paper-based-packaging sourcing.

Recovery and recycling

Yum! Brands recycles nearly 40 million pounds of cooking oil and repurposes it for biodiesel and animal feed. It is committed to implementing projects to reduce, reuse and recycle food and packaging waste. This includes food donation, diverting waste from landfill and packaging reclamation programmes.

Reducing waste from restaurant operations is an environmental challenge for the company. The company's programmes explore ways to reduce and use waste streams. Restaurant waste falls into several main categories: food, spent cooking oil, corrugated cardboard and packaging. The company is expanding recycling to all of its restaurants. It also works with cross-industry groups such as the Paper Recovery Alliance, Food Waste Reduction Alliance and WRAP to further food-waste recovery and recycling efforts. It is in the process of establishing its 2020 goal for waste and recycling, which will provide more measureable and robust targets.

McDonald’s has set an ambitious goal to ensure that all the packaging it uses for the food it serves is 100% sustainable.
YUM! Brands recycles 40 million pounds of cooking oil.
YUM! Brands owns Taco Bell.

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