Last week, Mintel took part in the Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit in Chicago. Many of the industries’ biggest names were in there to share their expertise, among them, Mintel’s own Global Packaging Analyst Viktorija Gnatoka. A growing recognition of the value of consumer insights and the shift from disruptive packaging innovation to solutions-based innovation were two key themes fueling what was referred to as a “revolution” in packaging. Here are some more takeaways from the show.

david_luttenbergerDavid Luttenberger, Global Packaging Director 

Keynote speaker Denise Lefebvre, VP/Global Packaging & Engineering at Pepsico, kickstarted the event when she challenged the CPG and packaging industry attendees to “evolve [your packaging] in a way that allows you to really reach consumers.” Her edict focused on three tenets, including environmental responsibility, a return to artisan products, and food and beverage packaging that addresses “human sustainability.” Lefebvre emphasized the role packaging will play in diffusing consumer fears related to food safety and packaging, as noted in Mintel’s Food Packaging Trends US 2014 report.  

Mintel was represented at the global gathering of food and beverage brands and packaging suppliers by Viktorija Gnatoka. She shared with attendees excerpts from Mintel’s Extend My Brand, which emphasized that brands are using insights to understand and leverage consumer trust. In the process, said Gnatoka, brands are able to offer more variety of products and packaging innovations, with inspiration often coming from outside a designated category.  She pointed out that it’s critical to avoid the status-quo and to embrace non-standard shapes and materials. And finally, she implored food and beverage packaging attendees to ensure on-pack cues and stated functional attributes are communicated effectively not only on-pack, but are supported by social and traditional media vehicles. “Combined, these elements will enhance the consumer’s experience with the product and build equity with the brand,” said Gnatoka.

Alonso Prado, international strategic marketing director at Tampico Beverage Inc., and Jill McCurdy, director of packaging innovation at MillerCoors, hammered home the message that started the revolution.  “Brands and packaging converters are currently focused on ideating and innovating the ‘next big thing’ rather than understanding first what consumers really need and then innovating to stay relevant with them,” Prado said.  He then added a call to action. “Brands need to consider packaging solutions that address consumer needs.”

J.M Smucker’s Chris Cetnar summed up what could be considered the rally cry of the revolution. “Packaging,” declared Cetnar, “can be a growth engine when it meets the needs of consumers, retailers, and manufacturers.”

Victoria-image-circleViktorija Gnatoka, Global Packaging Analyst

One of the trends that was emphasized by many speakers during the conference was convenience. Flexible packaging is on a rise and consumers are valuing its’ main two attributes: value and convenience. An interesting and slightly unusual way to look at how convenient the packaging is was presented by Kelley Styring, Principal at Insightfarm Inc. She pointed out that today consumer’s lifestyles and the constant use of mobile and other technologies leave them one-handed. This thought leads to a next great question: if we all speak about convenient packaging, is it really convenient in a one handed world? Are consumers able to open a pack with one hand if their second hand is holding a phone, a baby, a purse or is on a steering wheel? If we speak about convenience, then why is food packaging not meant to be operated by one hand, and does this mean that there are many opportunities for predictable package opening dynamics?

Traceability, product safety and attempts to reduce food and package waste are one of the main issues related to the development of smart packaging. In a perfect world, a package would talk to consumers and remind of expiration dates, give cues about cooking instructions and ultimately connect them with the brands in a new interactive way. We are seeing new active packaging technologies, such as Insignia technologies, where triggers are implemented into packaging. Triggers are usually chemical or physical, and react to or with a change of temperature or specific modified atmosphere. This allows consumers to visually see if product is still good for use, thus reducing the unnecessary waste. Packaging was and will remain an important element of the product life cycle and new packaging technologies can bring benefits not only directly to the consumer but also more efficient solutions to the supply chain.

David Luttenberger brings nearly 25 years of diverse packaging experience to his role as Mintel’s Global Packaging Director. He has keynoted packaging congresses around the world, and has presented to hundreds of Fortune 1000, CPG, retail, agency, and converter companies, and is a regular contributor to Packaging Digest.

Viktorija Gnatoka is a global packaging analyst at Mintel where she is responsible for delivering packaging insights and actionable recommendations across multiple categories.

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