5 Trends Shaping Product Packaging Across Food, Beverage, and Beyond in 2023

May 17, 2023 | By The Fres-co Team

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Across food and beverage, retail pet food, specialty coffee, and more, industry standards and trends are constantly emerging and changing. These industries have always worked to meet the needs of consumers, and this year, it’s no surprise that sustainability, on-the-go convenience, and all-natural ingredients, among others, continue to be top priorities for brands trying to capture those hard-won consumer dollars.

As companies grapple with a tighter economy, high rates of inflation, and supply chain obstacles, increasing product visibility and trial has never been more important. With consumers getting savvier, there is also an increasing demand for product packaging with a sustainability story and that supports busy lifestyles. Packaging continues to be just as important as the product itself—helping to attract new customers on the shelves and online, extend shelf life, support sustainability efforts, and more.

Here, we’ll dive into the top trends shaping the food and beverage market, and beyond in 2023, and the packaging solutions that are setting the pace to meet each of these needs.

1. An Unwavering Demand For Sustainable Packaging

Sustainable packaging is quickly becoming an essential purchase criteria for consumers—even if it means a heftier price tag. According to McKinsey, approximately 70% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. As the dialogue around eco-friendly alternatives becomes more widespread, both by consumers and government regulators, it’s important to distinguish that sustainability is not as simple as “recyclable.”

In its broadest sense, sustainable packaging is packaging that, over time, reduces its environmental impact and ecological footprint. Across the complete packaging lifecycle, the use of fossil fuel, greenhouse gas emissions, and water use all need to be considered and analyzed.

High-barrier flexible packaging—like those we provide for the food and beverage, coffee, and retail pet food markets—are extremely efficient across all of these areas. A single-serve, flexible liquid pouch, for example, offers a 91:3 product-to-package ratio, using fewer resources and creating less waste in the product’s final form compared to a glass container. Flexible packaging has also been proven to increase product protection, extend shelf life, and use less fuel in shipping and transportation compared to rigid packaging.

2. Convenience Is Key

With time being one of the most precious commodities, consumers are eating around busy schedules, creating a greater demand for on-the-go, single serve, and functional packaging to complement their eating and snacking habits. Convenience features such as easy opening, reclosability, and portability continue to drive packaging innovation for beverages, liquids, snacks, meals, and even foodservice products.

Convenience packaging doesn’t need to be sophisticated, but it does need to perform. Take for example, single-serve flexible pouches with drinkable spouts. While initially designed with toddlers in mind, they are now being explored in larger portion sizes and with functional ingredients to target busy adults. Single-serve stick packs used to package high-quality powder drink mixes like electrolytes, collagen, whey protein, or green juice powders are pre-measured and can be quickly added to water. Sachets with tear notches also offer quick and easy access.

Both single-service, high-barrier stick packs and sachets can be cost-effectively packaged with rollstock for a quicker lead-time while also preserving shelf life for longer compared to rigid packaging. Rollstock can also be used to form larger, resealable pouch and bag sizes for premium items like meat snacks, dried nuts, and seeds.

3. More Variety with a Proliferation of SKUs

Producers of food and beverage, specialty coffee, retail pet food, and more are all trying to be everything to consumers at all times. Over the years, the consumer demand for more variety—from additional flavors to gluten-free, sugar-free, low-fat, low-sodium, and more—has resulted in a large portfolio of SKUs, adding more complexity to the supply chain. In the specialty coffee sector specifically, what once was the house blend is now being broken down and rebranded into separate products highlighting regionality.

And it’s not just food choices. Greater SKU variation also means a greater variability in packaging sizes and requirements, regional demands, and standard order volumes, leading many businesses to discover that their packaging and shipping processes are in need of an overhaul.

With so many different products competing on the shelves, maximizing packaging appeal is key. In addition to traditional flexographic and rotogravure printing, we offer digital printing for many of our packaging types. Digital printing allows small print quantities to be more economical— giving companies the flexibility to pivot and respond to customer demand for seasonal or exclusive products quickly and efficiently. Plus, with the use of rollstock and our packaging machines, flexible packages of varying size and type can be easily created in-house to aid manufacturers with large SKU portfolios.

4. Cleaner, Healthier Ingredients and Products

Since the start of the pandemic and earlier, consumers have been making a push for cleaner, healthier ingredients and products across all markets—and not just for them, but for their pets, too. A departure from highly processed foods and an embrace towards simple, natural ingredients and smaller ingredient lists is not only shifting the focus of product creation, but it’s also encouraging a more transparent supply chain.

“Natural” or “clean-label” formulations often omit artificial preservatives and ingredients that are typically used to stabilize the product—which means the product can more easily lose its efficacy or degrade in traditional forms of packaging. Flexible packaging is more equipped to protect high-quality ingredients against moisture ingress and oxidation, which can extend the shelf life of the product.

Consumers not only want less sugar, more functional benefits, and more plant-based proteins, but also improved nutrition labeling and transparency on where certain ingredients originate. Flexible packaging in a unique shape and size not only creates added interest on the shelf, but it also provides a larger “brand billboard” to advertise better-for-you ingredients. Flexible packaging also provides a unique opportunity to feature stand-out digital graphics and unique finishes that add a creative “pop” on the shelf.

5. eCommerce-Ready Packaging

In today’s market, there are more packages than ever crossing the threshold of consumer’s homes. Packaging must stand up to ecommerce shipping without denting, breaking, or causing other issues that prevent consumers from seamlessly enjoying the product. But, that isn’t always the case. According to Packaging Digest, as much as 11% of unit loads that arrive at a distribution center have some level of damage. Torn or otherwise compromised packaging must be thrown out, often along with the rest of the freight, causing unnecessary expense and waste.

Unlike metal, glass, or paper, flexible packaging is designed to absorb impact during transportation, providing the durability needed to ensure the product arrives safely at the doorsteps of online shoppers. Its lighter weight is also ideal for ecommerce, creating a ripple effect that not only lowers transportation and storage costs, but also reduces the total carbon footprint associated with your packaging.

Embrace Market Trends More Easily With Flexible Packaging

If you’re considering moving from rigid to flexible packaging, our team of flexible packaging experts can help you make the switch, helping increase the efficacy, shelf appeal, durability, and sustainability of your product.

As a flexible packaging innovator, we offer in-house R&D capabilities, technical service, and operational support that you can leverage to arrive at the best possible packaging solution for your needs. Contact us at contact@fresco.com to learn more about how we help you achieve your packaging objectives.

For more than 40 years, Fres-co System USA, Inc. has manufactured high-performance flexible packaging systems and invented dozens of innovative breakthroughs including degassing valves, modified atmosphere technologies, and reclosure systems.

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