In Sync: Consumer trends and flexible packaging align for 2013

Perhaps the greatest attribute that flexible packaging has going for it today (and in the next few years) is how well it syncs with a variety of consumer trends, says Lynn Dornblaser, director-innovation and insight at CPG researcher Mintel Group, Ltd. Be it good looks, a strong environmental position or simply convenient functionality, flexible packaging is answering consumer demands on many levels. Dornblaser spoke at last week’s FPA Fall Executive Conference in Chicago.

Among the points she made:

  • The Great Recession has had a clear impact on the number of new CPG product introductions; market contraction and SKU rationalization have likely brought overall intros down to a lower level for the longer term.
  • Flexible-packaging types for new CPG products have grown from 16% in 2008 to 18% for just the Jan.-Sept. 2012 period alone. Only bottles have a higher percentage of products than do flexibles.
  • Standup pouches show the greatest increases over time. Pouches are applied across the full spectrum of products but mainly foods and drinks. While snacks and pet food accounted for 40% of standup-pouch end uses for new products so far this year, the diversity of apps has climbed annually since 2008.
  • Consumers demand a lot from a product’s packaging from ease of use to durability to recyclability. The top nine “most important” characteristics of a package provide a functional benefit–not a package that’s pretty to look at.
  • Flexible packaging can answer these functional preferences: Easy to open, retains freshness, easy to hold, resealable; portable, durable, single-serving sizes; lightweight; minimalistic.
  • Three overarching trends are impacting new CPG products and their packaging: Wellness, value and fun. 1) Wellness transcends not just physical but mental and spiritual well-being (and well-being of the environment, too). 2) The economic times are making everyone more cost-conscious and aware of the best value. 3) Amid the stress of daily life, though, we all still want to have fun.
  • Flex packs can address wellness via clear communication regarding contents, and graphics and shapes that convey “health”–i.e.: a pomegranate juice pouch with a skinny waistline.
  • Environmental issues appear to be almost all about recycling, but it’s more than that. Fourteen percent of new CPG products in the US so far this year make ethical or eco claims. Flex packs provide a simpler, source-reduced container that can also be compostable, hitting on consumer preferences at several points.
  • Value-wise, bulk packaging is going away and being replaced by flex packs holding “just enough product for now”–i.e.: Heinz Ketchup in a 10-oz standup pouch for only 99 cents.
  • A shift in packaging can make a product fun for new consumers, i.e.: Campbell’s Go Soups in graphically interesting standup pouches, and Cordina single-serve, slushie-type alcoholic drinks in spouted pouches.
  • Summary: Flexibles easily attract consumers via beautiful graphics and unusual shapes; Environmental benefits are a strong message to convey; “Easy-open” is of greatest importance to consumers, and flex packs (usually) offer that.
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