Many consumers look at the label when making decisions about their food choices, and most often they are looking for clean-label foods to complement their healthier lifestyle.

According to the 2016 “Food and Health” survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC), 47 percent of consumers look at the ingredients list when making a purchasing decision.

When asked how they define a “healthy eating style,” 41 percent of respondents chose “limited or no artificial ingredients or preservatives,” and when asked to define “natural” food, 29 percent said, “associated with having no preservatives or additives.”

These factors directly influence purchasing decisions. When shopping for food, more than one quarter (27 percent) of consumers say that health concerns influence their choice of food, and nearly as many (23 percent) indicated that they are more likely to buy food with a health claim on the package than food without.

Clean labeling is affecting nearly half of food processing operations, according to PMMI’s 2017 Trends in Food Operations Report. As consumer shopping habits are increasingly affected by the perceived healthiness of foods, brands must do more to display the health benefits of their products. Advances in smart packing, visual graphics and even package recyclability can help draw in today’s health conscious buyers.

Below is a look at some the packaging trends related to clean labels that are slated to be featured at this year’s  PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2017 (Las Vegas Convention Center; Sept. 25–27). 

1. Using intelligent packaging

Along with the desire to know what is in their food products, consumers also have a desire, and many times a need, to know more about what they are consuming.

The North America active and intelligent packaging market is estimated to grow from USD 6.35 billion in 2016 to USD 9.34 billion by the end of 2021. Leading the market is the United States, with almost 85 percent of the market share.

Printed electronics and the cloud are opening up new ways for brands to connect and share information with shoppers. Technologies incorporated or embedded in the package can convey nutrition information, allergy information, expiration dates and more.

“Brands have an opportunity to make sure consumers understand the value of their products and things like expiration dates,” says Joe Stodola, chief commercial officer of at Jabil. “We’re an emerging packaging company for brands that want to use their packaging as part of their differentiation in the market. We’re always working on capabilities that change how brands connect with their consumers.”

That differentiation can be visual or reflected in the performance and function of the packaging. Jabil is developing solutions that connect packaging with the cloud, which enables shoppers to look up data, allergy information, portion sizing and more.

2. Creating packaging that stands out

As consumers demand cleaner food and more transparency from brands, companies must find ways to help their products stand out among the hundreds of other healthy options.

In 2016 alone, 4,591 new products carrying a USDA-approved “no additives or preservatives” label were introduced to the market. The number of new, GMO-free products amounted to 3,732; 3,011 were organic; 6,552 were low- to-no allergen; 6,123 were gluten-free and 5,056 claimed an environmentally friendly package. Each of these categories has grown year-by-year since at least 2009.

The proliferation of products with health claims creates a challenge for food manufacturers. Brands can look to special features like matte varnishes, clear panels and eye-catching visuals to help their products stand out on the shelf.

Justin Slarks, director of marketing at Sleeve Seal (Booth #C-5406), says he has noticed brands gravitating toward using photographic elements in their packaging.

Whether it’s an actual picture of the food inside the package or a bottle of pomegranate juice with a photo of a pomegranate on the front, including photographs of fresh foods offers shoppers a sense of trust in the healthiness of their food.

“It all boils down to customers wanting more transparency,” Slarks says. “We offer many solutions to help enhance the look and feel of labels, including matte varnishes in up to 10 colors and ultra-high-resolution printing for photographic elements. Our machines run thinner films, so there are less consumables in each label, but the same visual impact.”

When calling out benefits on the package, brands should include not just the nutritional value of the food but the environmentally friendly assets of the package itself, Slarks explains. Innovations in product labeling show higher levels of recyclability, including de-steaming technology that helps separate labels from containers in the recycling process.

Sleeve Seal will be showcasing its solutions at PACK EXPO Las Vegas, including the SSL-800i, a vertical-sleeve labeler that is lubrication-free and belt-only for simple operation and easy reformatting.

3. Sustainable packaging

While the primary driver for clean labels is ingredients, more customers are demanding transparency from brands on recyclability, clean processing and sustainable sourcing.

According to a global CSR study by Cone Communications, 91 percent of global consumers expect companies to operate responsibly and make efforts to address environmental concerns. The study also found that 84 percent of shoppers seek out environmentally responsible products whenever possible, and 71 percent would pay more for a sustainable product.

Packaging companies are providing more solutions that lessen a brand’s environmental impact in the factory and in the store.

For example, Sleever (Booth #S-5922), a global manufacturer of thermo-shrink plastic labels, carries a line of shrink sleeve called LDPET, which include a low density PET film (SI-TPEG/050 ZL) that separates sleeves from bottles without manual operation.

The printed film uses inks that are specifically designed to withstand the materials segregation treatment with no risk of contamination to the PET flakes, ensuring full recyclability.

Due to their density, the LDPET can also be easily sorted out in sedimentation tanks. Sleever International’s turnkey solution, fully operational with the Combisteam LDPET, allows for the full or partial labeling of bottles ranging from 20 cl to 2 liters, with production outputs between 15,000 and 30,000 bottles per hour. One of the first companies to adopt this technology was Dannon, which used it on water bottles. Sleever will exhibit this and other technologies, including recyclability solutions for dairy products and films, at PACK EXPO Last Vegas.

Find it at PACK EXPO Las Vegas

Food and beverage packaging professionals are leading the clean label and sustainable packaging movement.

As more companies make clean label claims, innovations in the packaging industry make it easier than ever for brands to call attention to the health and environmental benefits of their products. Attendees at PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2017 co-located with Healthcare Packaging EXPO will have the chance to learn about and view design and labeling solutions like active and intelligent packaging, eye-grabbing graphics and easily recyclable labels. More than 2,000 exhibitors will offer solutions to improve product safety and reputation. To register, visit

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