The channel in which a ham is sold through also will influence packaging decisions. Hams destined for the retail case at a supermarket will wear much different packaging than those traveling straight to the back of the house at a foodservice establishment, or straight to the end consumer via e-commerce.
“Retail is a lot about branding, utility and shopability,” Brunt says. “When you get into foodservice it’s much more about back of the house operations and helping reduce labor costs and increase yields.”
Burgers’ Smokehouse has set a goal to develop packaging options on its fully cooked and portioned products that will provide better benefits for smaller households. “We will be focused on providing an easier and more informative experience for the retail customer (better presentation of the information on the package) and then continue to focus on quality and integrity of the product as the primary focus for the foodservice and e-commerce customer,” Perrier says.
Hendrickson says packaging starts the same way for retail, foodservice and e-commerce at Hormel, “primarily flexible bags or film.” It’s in the secondary levels of packaging and labeling where key differences become apparent.
“Retail hams are required to have additional labeling and include more branding on packaging compared to foodservice hams,” Hendrickson says. “It’s more common for our foodservice items to include labeling on the boxes the hams are shipped in and not necessarily the primary packaging. E-commerce products have an entirely different litany of packaging requirements designed to keep the ham cold and protect it during shipping.”
Through consumer research, Smithfield has gotten a picture of its large holiday and seasonal hams as something greater than just food brought home for the meal. Large family gatherings that necessitate a ham of that size center around special occasions. Smithfield incorporates mylar into the packaging to accentuate that specialness.
“Historically when we have looked at ham packaging, one of the things that we always got on feedback from consumers is the idea of unwrapping the ham since it’s a holiday,” says Ashley Spokowski, senior packaging engineer at Smithfield Foods. “So it’s like a present. It’s something you do as a family.” Spokowski goes on to say, “The mylar has such a nice wrap-around appearance and look to it that it creates an eye catching and impactful view for the consumer to see.” The usability of the mylar on a product that’s never consistently the same size or shape adds to its value, as well.