IS FOOD PACKAGING AN ENVIRONMENTAL OR ECONOMIC CONCERN?
In developing countries like Kenya packaging is characterized by strewn wastes all over the towns or trading centres and in most cases their values are attached to environmental hazards.
According to Jane Bickerstaffe, as consumers we only see packaging when the product has reached the shop. By then it has almost finished its useful life. None of us, therefore, have sufficient knowledge to be able to judge how much or how little packaging is needed.
Packaging is as critical to modern life as the water supply system. In food industry plays a role of preserving, reducing wastage, increasing the lifespan of the food products. In fact it performs a major role in protecting far more resources than it uses and preventing far more waste than it generates. There is always room for improvement, but manufacturers and retailers have both economic and environmental reasons to get it right, simply because their costs are lower if they use fewer materials, energy and water.
Despite this, far from being acknowledged as an essential and beneficial part of getting food and other products to us in a safe, clean and undamaged state, packaging is widely derided and criticised.
Several global companies in packaging sector are striving to help consumers understand the importance of packaging at home and working environment. Recently, a research organization working with British and International manufacturers and retailers to promote responsible packaging for resource efficient supply chains, the Industry Council for Research on Packaging and the Environment, INCPEN - did extensive research to gauge consumers’ perception of packaging. It came out with interesting results. Consumers are generally unaware of the stresses and strains the product has to go through in order to reach its final destination this has led to a general view that products are over-packaged. Over-packaging can have big cost implications.
Packaging is not an evil waste of resources, it is the good guy.
According to a report done by World Packaging Organisation entitled Market Statistics and Future Trends in Global Packaging the following trends influence the packaging industry;
This is the single most important influence on packaging consumption. The level of economic activity has a fairly direct influence on demand for bulk/ transport packaging in particular and indirectly provides the right or wrong climate for investment into packaging material research and development. This is therefore a clear indication that just like any other sector the growth in packaging will wholly rely on the economic trends
Much is said about the potential of China’s one billion consumers, but demographic factors often have a much more complex effect on demand trends. In the packaging market, a great deal of attention has been devoted to ensuring that the offer responds to the demands of particular demographic segments, and takes into account the ageing of the world’s population that is now occurring.
The population of the world currently stands at 6.47 billion, up from 4.07 billion people in 1975, and set to grow to around 9.08 billion by 2050 taking the average of UN forecasts. By the same measure, the population of Africa will more than double to 1.94 billion, while that of Asia will grow by around one third to 5.2 billion. The population of Europe, meanwhile, is forecast to decline, from 728 million to 653 million, with the population of the world’s more developed regions set to rise only slightly, from 1.21 billion to 1.24 billion.
It is difficult to ignore lifestyle trends that are today impacting upon consumer purchasing decisions. For the packaging industry, these trends are positive, encouraging innovation and expansion of chilled cabinet selections in supermarkets. Consumers are becoming increasingly demanding and short of time, seeking out convenience food solutions that represent an advance on more traditional processed foods. The expectations of food quality are rising and growing awareness of health and other issues present new challenges to retailers, packers and packaging suppliers alike.
Smaller h o u s eh old s an d smaller p a ck sizes
Social change is indirectly leading to modifications in packaging design. The average size of households is declining in line with the rising number of single-parent households and single-person households, and as a result there have been moves towards smaller pack sizes. This trend is being reinforced by the decline in the family meal, as more and more women enter into the workplace. As working hours become less standard, opportunities for the family to eat together are becoming fewer.
Rising sales of convenience foods and developments in convenience food packaging have been a major feature of packaging markets in recent times. Packaging technology has developed to the extent that the ready-meal offer has improved significantly, attracting a broader and also wealthier customer base than was previously possible as consumers are prepared to pay a premium for quality, pre-prepared meals.
Consumer health concerns are an increasing influence in many end-use markets for packaging. Examples include, rising sales of bottled water, fruit juice and milk drink markets in many countries, to the detriment of spirits and, in some countries, carbonated soft drinks and Increasing demand for packaged fresh food products.
‘On-the-go’ lifestyles have emerged as a result of several factors. Longer working hours, longer commuting times and the growing number of consumers left to fend for themselves when it comes to acquiring food, have all contributed to the notion of time-poor consumers. In addition, consumers are less inclined to spend what valuable time they have preparing and often consuming food. The main consequence of this has been an increased incidence of snacking during the day and rising out-of-home consumption as well as a greater reliance on ready-prepared foods in the evening.
Brand Enhancement and differentiation
Packaging is a major aspect of differentiation in most consumable goods; where differentiation competition is intense then prices are low, and packaging provides a marketing advantage at the point of sale. The power of the global brands continues to increase strongly, particularly in the carbonated soft drinks market, dominated worldwide by two brands, and the beer market.
R e ta il tre n ds
The retail industry is increasing in power and diversity. Hypermarkets are usually sited outside the city centre, while discounters can be found everywhere and specialty stores are usually in the larger cities. Convenience stores continue to make headway, located in airports, train station and city centres. This comes with better possibility of well packaged products.
Environmental concerns have led to governments in many parts of the world to take steps to deal with the issue of packaging waste and recycling. Packaging directives from relevant bodies have led to the imposition of challenging targets for recycling, and national governments are also examining new ways to discourage packaging waste.
Nevertheless, the packaging industry has taken steps to address the environmental question, but this has been more of a function of cooperation with government rather than strictly a marketing issue, although some consumers will seek out environmentally-friendly packaging and products as a matter of course.