Important considerations when selecting the right food packaging
By Chris Bekermeier
Making a great food product is important, but almost as equally important is the food packaging. Think about the roles that food packaging must fulfill: The right food packaging protects your food from contaminants and potential damage, makes the customer want to buy the product and clearly states the product’s ingredients and certifications for those with food allergies or dietary restrictions.
The following considerations are important to keep in mind when selecting the right food packaging options to ensure food safety and attractiveness to consumers.
Before you do anything else, determine which food packaging materials are ideal for your product. Evaluate the material’s barrier properties — that is, how it keeps out moisture and oxygen. A lack of oxygen slows the spoiling of many foods and maintains the flavor and crispness. For example, when packaging almonds, the air inside the bag is replaced with nitrogen, to prevent the almonds from going rancid. This is called “modified atmosphere packaging,” where the oxygen is removed and another gas is used to fill the container or bag.
Consider as well the biological protection that the food packaging offers: Does it keep the food from spoiling too soon? Is it a sufficient barrier to pathogens, insects and rodents?
What do you want the physical properties of the food packaging to be? For example, do you want the consumer to easily open the package? Or do you want food packaging that doesn’t tear easily? Does the food packaging need to protect the product from being crushed?
Research published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health showed that children preferred decorative food packaging — and that the aesthetic appeal of the food packaging was more important than the brand. The study was specifically designed to challenge a 2007 study showing that children preferred McDonald’s food packaging.
Use this kind of psychology to pick a color scheme for your food packaging. If your food packaging materials are beige or feature muted colors, for example, people will likely associate the food with being “natural” or “organic.”
Depending on your product, your food packaging may need to include colors that indicate different flavors — yellow for lemon or banana, reddish-pink for strawberry, purple for grape and so on.
What information do you want to include on the food packaging label? Do you want it to be full of facts and suggestions, or would you rather keep it minimalistic? Some food packaging benefits from including a recipe on it, especially if it’s a new product that not everyone knows how to use.
Make sure you’ve found a food packager you trust. What is the volume of product you need to run? How accessible is the processing plant by rail? Does the facility have the equipment needed to create food packaging for your specific products?
If you’re a U.S.-based producer, don’t overlook compliance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Your food packaging and its labeling must meet FDA standards and rules regulating nutrition information, ingredient listing and claims made on the food packaging, such as “gluten-free” or “organic.” Its guidelines explain the difference between health claims, nutrient content claims and structure/function claims, so review them before diving into a project.
About the Author
Chris Bekermeier is the Vice President, Sales and Marketing, of PacMoore in Hammond, Indiana. PacMoore is one of the world’s leading commercial food packaging companies, processing dry ingredients for the food industry. Its capabilities include blending, spray drying, re-packaging, sifting and custom food packaging.
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