Convenience has reigned king in packaging for a very long time. However, convenient packaging looks different today than ten or even five years ago. The consumer purchasing behaviours that have emerged from the pandemic have given new meaning to ‘convenient packaging’ and provided new directions and impetus for innovation.
In this blog, we examine how packaging design has aligned with this new brand of convenience and highlight some of the packaging technologies helping designers and converters develop next generation convenient formats that resonate with consumers.
Food-to-go makes a comeback
Driven by busy on-the-go lifestyles, the ‘food to go’ category was booming pre-Covid, but in 2020, as the pandemic kept most consumers confined to their homes, the market stalled. With restrictions now lifted in most countries, the sector is expected to revive swiftly. In its UK Food To Go Market Report, Lumina predicts the UK market will reach a substantial value of £22.6bn by 2024.
However, due to lifestyle changes, the market that returns won’t be the same as before. The original trend was geared towards busy office workers dashing between gym classes, work meetings and social engagements. The workplace has since undergone what may be irreversible changes, and many office workers are now running between video calls instead. In a poll of 2000 business leaders across Europe, 89% of companies said they planned on having a hybrid workforce post-pandemic. This is framing the demand for different approaches to convenience food.
Having got used to cooking, experimenting with recipes, and eating ‘proper’ meals during lockdowns, working households seek out meal options that allow them to continue eating well despite having less time, now that life is more or less back to normal. Packaging innovations that make it easier for consumers to continue to eat ‘proper’ rather than ‘processed’ foods will be welcomed.
Picnics in the park
In addition, outdoor eating, dubbed ‘blanqueting’, is tipped as a major trend this summer, prompting retailers to design dedicated picnic ranges. A step beyond alfresco dining, many of these are short shelf-life chilled ‘finger foods’ that require convenient, resealable packaging solutions.
Utilising Parkside’s state of the art laser technology, lidding films for trays of sausage rolls, pork pies, fresh fruit and more can be designed with easy peel and reclose functionality. Crisps, meanwhile, can be packed in lasered sharing bags that enable consumers to peel open the front of the packet to share the contents before reclosing and saving the rest for later, beneficially minimising food waste.
Healthy new habits
The pandemic has also brought health and wellness to the fore. A major study of European food behaviours commissioned by EIT Food predicts that health and nutrition will be more of a priority for Europeans after the pandemic: 29% of people plan to focus more on controlling weight through food choices.
Packaging plays a vital role here, through formats that make portion and calorie control convenient, such as single serves and compartmentalised packs. Parkside’s in-house laser perforation technology allows the creation of portion packs, a format that was adopted by Cadbury for its Fingers ‘snap & go’ snack packs for example.
Consumers don’t just have an eye on the size of their portions but also the size of the shopping bills, as they feel the squeeze of the rising cost of living. According to Bank of America, a fourfold increase in energy market prices across Europe means households will pay an average of 54% more for energy this year than in 2020. Reclose technologies that make buying in bulk more convenient and less wasteful will naturally therefore gain traction.
This accelerated shift is also driving the requirement to enhance the convenience of larger formats for online shopping, which has been seen across all European countries since the pandemic. The same EIT survey found that 45% of consumers are doing more online shopping than before and are planning their purchases more carefully, with 28% reporting fewer impulse purchases. Convenience is no longer automatically associated with spontaneity and consumers are seeking greater convenience from their product choices and packaging.
Film: your flexible friend
Flexible packaging is the clear candidate for balancing several of these demands – pouches, flow wraps and gusseted bags are lightweight, portable and cost-effective in terms of material usage. We will most likely continue to see many products move from rigid glass and plastic into flexible formats in the next few years.
Creating a connection
The word convenience has taken on new meaning in a packaging context. It is broader than just self-heating soup cups or portable packs with neat dispensing mechanisms. It’s about empathetic packaging design that addresses real consumer concerns and creates an emotional connection. This means that as well as addressing shared concerns, convenient packaging needs to become more personalised and targeted – to specific consumer groups, usage occasions and retail channels.
To succeed at this more segmented approach to convenience, FMCG manufacturers need to build greater flexibility into their packaging operations, particularly the ability to produce short runs cost-efficiently. Systems for adding convenience mechanisms such as zip locks, spouts and resealable tabs need to be easy to incorporate into existing packaging workflows, and lines need to switch easily between different films and formats, which is where Parkside’s solutions come into play.
Talk to the Parkside team about your brand and target consumers – we’re here to help!