Thought Bubble: Clear packaging sees the light

August 26, 2014
5 min read

Thought Bubble is a regular feature on the Mintel blog highlighting multiple viewpoints on one topic from Mintel’s team of expert analysts around the globe.

Recently, we’ve seen (literally) that one of the new trends in food packaging appears to be see-through food packages.  Mintel asked three analysts from different sectors to bring the issue into focus.

amanda topper TB

Amanda Topper, Food and Drink Analyst: 

“It’s no surprise there’s been growing manufacturer interest in packaging food in clear materials. Shoppers continue to want more information about the products they purchase, including manufacturing processes, ingredients, and sourcing. Clear packaging helps shoppers see and feel the quality of a product, further aiding in their purchase decision. More than half of shoppers (54%) agree it’s important to see a product through its packaging, according to Mintel’s Food Packaging Trends 2014 report. Many manufacturers have taken note, and adjusted their packaging accordingly, using clear film, product windows, or even edible packaging.

Another benefit of transparent packaging is its fresh or clean appearance. Nearly one third of shoppers (30%) gauge how fresh a product is by its appearance, rather than its use-by date. Clear packaging can help increase shoppers’ initial perception of food freshness and demonstrates that what you see is what you get. Such packaging also may be proving the point that it does not contain any unnatural ingredients or additives.

Baby food brand Beech-Nut launched a new line of products in the spring of 2014 focused on transparency in product packaging and ingredients. The launch altered the shape of the standard baby food jar and includes products featuring simple fruits and vegetables. In addition to a newly shaped jar, the brand removed labels and instead printed a small label on see-through jars. The transparent jars help shoppers view the colors, and textures of the product, and highlight the quality of the food’s ingredients.

Transparent packaging, combined with simple product labels, may be the winning combination in terms of appealing to health conscious, quality-seeking shoppers. Overall, shoppers will continue looking for products that are viewed as fresh and wholesome, and clear packaging can support this pursuit.”

Victoria-image-circleViktorijia Gnatoka, Global Packaging Analyst:

Transparent packaging might seem more attractive than opaque food containers, as consumers are able to see the product consistency. At the same time, our minds are influenced by the package design and form the product comes in. It’s all about the perception and whether consumers think certain pack type or clear pack makes the product look healthier, better or even more tasty. In the UK, only 29% of the consumers think that it is important to see the product through the package. In the US, that number jumps to 54%. However, this packaging attribute is not always associated with product safety in consumers’ mind. Indeed, Mintel’s Food Packaging Trends Report shows that 59% of US consumers are concerned about packaging materials affecting the quality of the foods they buy. This means that consumers are more concerned whether the product they buy is packaged in plastic, can or glass and not necessarily in the see-through pack.

However, this perception changes as consumers age. We are seeing that older consumers have less trust to the description of the product on the pack (almost 50% of the consumers age 55+ would like to see the product through the pack vs less than 20% of the consumers age 25-34) and really value an ability to see the product for themselves. Therefore, the importance of the function of windows and clear films increases with the consumers’ age.

Transparent packaging can also help to build the brand equity and support the value proposition. We are seeing many products with premium positioning that have a window on the pack to demonstrate the high quality products. With an increasing popularity of pouches, consumers might question the product quality and clear bottom pouches address this issue. Window on a flexible pouch might not look very attractive, while the clear bottom is a great way to establish the transparency of quality.

Stacy_Glasgow_blogStacy Glasgow, Consumer Trends Analyst: 

“As the sheer volume of purchase options and marketing messages in today’s marketplace continues to soar, consumers have room to scrutinize the multitude of choices they face on a daily basis. Consequently, Mintel Trends sees that consumers are demanding proof of the claims that products and services make, in an effort to be absolutely sure that a certain granola bar or particular orange juice deserves their hard-earned money.

As sales results from products that have switched to see-through packaging suggest, consumers feel more confident seeing clear, on-shelf evidence that a product not only appears as it should, but that it looks appetizing as well. As the driving force behind this consumer trend is strong, other brands can certainly benefit from baring it all to discerning shoppers.”

Amanda Topper is an analyst specializing in the food industry. She is responsible for writing monthly analysis reports providing strategic insight and consultancy across several categories from gluten-free foods and cheese to cereal and snacks.

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

Stacy Glasgow is a Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. She specializes in Inspire trends that will propel businesses forward and comes from a diverse background that includes CPG, agency, and marketing experience.

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