Packaging's role in the changing food landscape

by Kimberlie Clyma
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Dr. John Stanton, professor of Food Marketing at Saint Joseph’s Univ. in Philadelphia, has been working in the food marketing industry for 40 years. During those 40 years, there have been a lot of changes in the food landscape – but Stanton feels the most change has occurred in the past five years.

“There are so many more channels of distribution now,” he says. “There’s more impact from social media. More technology. There are so many ways to communicate with and sell to consumers today.”

Stanton shared his insights about the changing food industry, and the role packaging plays in it, as a part of Multivac’s 30th Anniversary celebration at its US headquarters in Kansas City Oct. 31 – Nov. 1. Stanton’s presentation helped kick off the two-day event which included a tour of the company’s newly renovated facility and demonstrations of its existing and newest packaging lines.

Stanton explained that one of the biggest changes that the food industry has to contend with today is the changes in family households. Three groups are affecting the food landscape today are:

• The sandwich generation – adults that are both taking care of their parents and taking care of their kids and the same time;

• Boomerang kids – adults that are going back to live with their parents later in life; and

• Millennials.

“Millennials behave differently, shop differently and eat differently,” Stanton explained.

Another change in consumer groups today comes from single-person households – many of which are part of the millennial generation. Twenty-seven percent of US households are made up of just one person. “Single-person households don’t shop the same way a family does,” Stanton said.

Consumers are now finding new and different places to spend their food dollars. Supermarkets and club stores are being joined by c-stores, drug stores, dollar stores and limited assortment stores (like Aldi and Lidl) as shopping destinations for today’s consumers. Consumers can even do their food shopping in airports and in vending machines these days, Stanton explained.

“People are going everywhere to buy their food,” he said. “Millennials don’t see a brick and mortar store as the primary place to shop. We’re losing the opportunity to sell them other things when they skip coming into the store to shop.”

The changes in the food merchandising landscape has made food packaging more important than ever, Stanton explained. “People are still making purchasing decisions by looking at the packaging, whether they’re looking at food in the store on the shelf or shopping online. If they buy online they still see pictures of the packages,” he said. “Packaging is a billboard for your brand. Even if the shopper isn’t shopping for your product, they’re walking by it in the store. They’re being exposed to your brand just like on a billboard. The packaging is the connective tissue that brings it all together.”

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