Changes are bringing new opportunities and challenges
By Ian Lifshitz
New opportunities for those in the food, foodservice and food packaging industries are sprouting up on a daily basis as a number of key market drivers are reshaping the business. Much of the change is driven by consumer demand as daily lifestyles and attitudes towards the environment are evolving.
Individuals are getting busier – there has been a decline in the number of people eating at home, which has been matched by an increase in those eating out or on the move. In addition, consumers are becoming more conscious about their impact on the planet and, in turn, they are more mindful when purchasing products that may increase their environmental footprint.
A survey conducted for APP Canada in late 2014 found that 77 cent of Canadians wanted more environmentally-friendly/green packaging for food products. Canadians felt much stronger about this issue compared to their American counterparts at 62 per cent. The results provide valuable insight into one of the most developed packaging markets in the world.
Here in Canada, experts expect consumer practices to change given the evolution of our daily lives. On-the-go food consumption, such as quick, healthy breakfasts, is becoming more of the norm here, similar to a growing trend around the world.
Now, brands must look for new ways to improve convenience within the sector to remain competitive. It’ll be interesting to see how many brands in Canada adopt a similar program to Starbucks’ Mobile Order and Pay, which was extended further into the Pacific Northwest and Alaska earlier this year to give consumers greater convenience. For other outlets which are looking to implement similar schemes themselves, they will need to consider a number of packaging factors, such as prolonged heat retention capacity, clear display labelling for easy collection, and carry-friendly design, in addition to their sustainable attributes.
In response to changing market conditions, industry around the world has responded with a number of innovations. Single-serve coffee pod consumption has exploded internationally, but there has been a backlash due to environmental concerns created by the convenient capsules. A number of Canadian companies have created compostable and recyclable capsules in response to consumers who want convenience without increasing their environmental footprint.
Another example of product development is Sobeys’ private label products. The grocery chain is finding ways to reduce the weight of packaging materials such as steel cans, coloured glass jars and bottles, PET, boxboard containers and plastic bags, while maintaining the safety and integrity of the food. It’s encouraging to see the Mississauga, Ont.-based company examine lessons learned from around the world to better sustainability and packing issues. This allows the company to explore the design of their products with the mindset to “begin with the end in mind.”
Innovation in the food, foodservice and food packaging markets is critical for brands to keep pace with emerging trends and enable the industry as a whole to continue to grow and develop. Catering to the increasingly environmentally conscientious consumer who likes to live on-the-go is a challenge that is faced by all. However, by addressing these challenges head on with innovations in design and materials, businesses will be able to distinguish themselves and build long-term success.
Ian Lifshitz is North American director of Sustainability & Stakeholder Relations at Asia Pulp and Paper Group (APP), the world’s second largest pulp and paper company. To learn more about APP’s community initiatives and sustainability efforts, visit the website.