In times of plenty, consumers often trade up from canned and frozen food to chilled despite higher prices. They see fresh foods as the more healthful option. Brand owners sometimes leverage freshness as a quality that can elevate a product from standard to premium, and this quality can be communicated through packaging.
Freshness, however, is not a quality associated only with premium products. It also can resonate with lower-income consumers. With an uncertain economy, consumers are watching what they spend, ensuring food is not wasted and they see value in packaging that keeps food fresh longer to avoid such waste.
Longer-life packaging does not have to present a significant change from previous packaging. In the U.K., Kraft Foods updated the lid on tubs of Philadelphia soft cheese to create a stay-fresh pack. Keeping the pack type and styling the same protected the brand recognition and equity that had been built into the existing pack, while the new closure enabled consumers to keep the product fresh in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Freshness also can be communicated through resealability, which enables consumers to be confident that the packaging keeps preserving the product after opening. This positioning often is used for processed meats and poultry in flexible packs and in stand-up pouches, with resealable zip closures and freshness relayed in on-pack claims. Perdue Farms incorporated a resealable zipper on the recent launch of Perdue Buffalo Style Chicken Wings in a pouch with the claim "Resealable for Freshness" clearly printed on the pack front. In the U.S. in 2012, 63 percent of all new pouch launches in food featured zip closures and highlighted the importance of resealability.
Another packaging strategy to provide freshness is individually packaged portion packs. While often used for portion control, freshness is also a driver. Euro-Nat recently launched Le Pain Des Fleurs 100% Natural Quinoa Crispbread in two individual "stay fresh packs" sold together in a board carton. This positioning could be strengthened by using packaging that consumers have come to perceive as having high preservation properties. For example, a metallized film pack could be communicated as "foil packed for freshness".
Another fresh innovation comes from Australia in the shape of a pouring tub for Danone yogurt. Here, freshness is reinforced through packaging that enables the consumer to see the product. Fresh products are not always as consistent in appearance as ambient processed foods; transparency can be an important packaging feature that builds trust in fresh products. Here, the window has a double use, marked with graduations to help the consumer see how much is left, with fun and informal marking such as "Plenty to go" and "Add to shopping list".
With consumers viewing freshness as premium, any packaging feature that can suggest that this attribute is being protected and preserved should be highlighted clearly to consumers. However, the greatest gains may be in persuading those consumers now counting pennies that they can buy fresh with confidence that the product will stay that way until it has been fully used up.
Author Benjamin Punchard is senior global packaging analyst for Mintel.