Fresh raw chicken in tray packs
Food brands and retailers can address consumer concerns about food waste through innovative packaging and product messaging.

CHICAGO – New research from market intelligence agency, Mintel, reveals that Americans have taken notice of, and are concerned with, growing strains on the world’s food resources. Eighty percent of shoppers in the US agree that reducing food waste and packaging waste are of equal importance, according to the research. Half (52 percent) of American shoppers prefer food purchases with minimal to no packaging.

While US consumers say that sustainability is a major concern, Mintel reports that only two out of five (42 percent) say they recycle a majority of the food packaging they use. The Mintel report also states that 81 percent of Americans who look to extend shelf life would prefer to purchase foods with resealable packaging rather than non-resealable, and that more than half of consumers would pay extra for packaging with features like resealability and portion control. Thirty percent of those asked also reported reusing packaging for other purposes.

One quarter of US consumers agreed that labels contribute to the low recycling rate due to unclear communication as to which packages can be recycled. In addition, only 13 percent of consumers actually made an effort to avoid packages that cannot be recycled.

“Our research shows that reducing food waste is top of mind for consumers. This presents opportunities for food brands and retailers to address these concerns through innovative packaging and product messaging,” said John Owen, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. “The prevention of food waste can be positioned not only as a good way for consumers to save money, but also as a way to work toward reversing the growing food waste trend through conscious consumption.”

The research also suggests that single-serve and portion-control packaging is trending up. More than half of consumers agree that fresh produce spoils before they have a chance to eat it, and 41 (percent) stated that they would pay more for single-serve vegetable packaging. Shoppers are also more interested in the visibility of packaged products. The ability to see the contents in a package would drive 38 percent of consumers to purchase one product over another, according to Mintel.

“Package innovation is playing a key role as food retailers respond to an ongoing shift away from the traditional three sit-down meals a day in favor of snacking and on-the-go eating,” Owen said. “In an effort to capitalize on ever-evolving eating occasions, brands should look to package products in single-serve portions for greater portability. To further build trust and increase purchase confidence, brands and manufacturers could incorporate transparent packaging, enabling consumers to evaluate the contents with their own eyes before committing to a purchase.”

According to Mintel’s 2016 Global Packaging Trend, “Phenomenal Flexibles,” consumers no longer consider flexible packaging a compromise due to the demand for single-serve portions. Thirty-four percent of consumers associate flexibles as modern, compared to 40 percent who consider glass packaging to be old-fashioned, but almost half (49 percent) are likely to agree that glass is reusable and effectively retains freshness.

“While the need for portability is forcing some brands to forgo glass for more convenient packaging options, glass hits on the trend of package reusability, and is considered visually appealing to many consumers. As such, brands that use glass packaging should market their products with a second life for its package in mind. Packaging continues to grow more important in the food marketing mix and brands should look to packaging to not only convey benefits and product information but also to shape a consumer’s experience with the product and to capture new use occasions,” concluded Owen.