At this year’s Institute of Food Technologists’ Food Expo, market intelligence agency Mintel offered a number of expert presentations. Among them was global packaging strategist Viktorija Gnatoka’s session, “Packaging Superheroes.”

FE: What is the definition of a “packaging superhero?”

Gnatoka: It is packaging that addresses many issues consumers are facing, as well as global problems, such as environment, food waste, etc. We hear often that packaging contributes to more waste and causes environmental pollution. However, if viewed from another angle, packaging is a hero, indeed. Not only does it help protect the product and ensure safety, it also assists in product distribution, getting products safely to remote areas and reducing waste through avoiding spoilage and reducing product overuse. So, when we see packaging materials and elements that help in fighting these issues, we really consider packaging to be a hero.

FE: What are consumers looking for in food and beverage packaging?

Gnatoka: According to the Mintel Food Packaging Trends US 2014 report, 92 percent of US consumers are looking for food packaging’s ability to retain freshness. Related to this, 82 percent of consumers are looking for packaging with a reclosable/resealable feature. And finally, the third-most wanted feature is packaging that is easy to open.

FE: How are companies responding to customers’ wishes?

Gnatoka: Brands are introducing resealable, easy-to-open packs with on-pack claims that communicate how the companies are responding positively to these needs. Reducing package waste, while keeping the same amount of product, is another way companies meet consumers’ expectations for environmentally friendly packages and sustainability initiatives.

FE: Food waste is increasingly becoming a topic of discussion. How can packaging address it?

Gnatoka: Packaging can help reduce product waste by reducing material used in the package and the package size, in addition to finding novel ways for the packaging to assist in getting all product out of the pack. If consumers are able to reclose a package for later use and get all product out it, product waste is tremendously reduced.

FE: Convenience continues to be a big trend with consumers. How is food and beverage packaging meeting this demand?

Gnatoka: What is important about the convenience trend is that it has become rather broad—blurring the lines between what convenient really means. In this case, it is better to be more specific about how a particular package attribute provides convenience.

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