Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Indian consumers and food packaging trends – a Mintel report

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food packaging trends
Amul Taaza pasteurized homogenized toned milk has been packaged in a newly designed 500 ml pack made of 100% recyclable plastic consisting of single-layer LDPE film; Sweet Home Farm Honey Nut Granola with Almonds, Cambodia comes in a carton and features a craft exercise of turning the empty carton into a cookie container; Horlicks Original Malted Drink, South Africa is retailed in a redesigned 500 gm recyclable LDPE pack made with 30% recycled plastic reclaimed in UK recycling plants. Source: Mintel GNPD

According to a report by Mintel, 7 in 10 Indians say snack food packaging has to be resealable, and many link the ability to reseal with freshness. Resealability is even more relevant in the post-pandemic era as it allows consumers to buy larger packs to stock at home while retaining freshness for longer between shopping occasions. 43% of consumers said, going forward while choosing food it is important to have proof that the product is produced in a safe and hygienic environment. Reusability of packaging appeals to almost half of women aged 18-34. We talked with Rushikesh Aravkar, associate director, food and drink consumer reports South APAC, Mintel, to get further insights on the findings of the report. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Dev Kumar Dutta: What are the significant trends in the report that you think will define the years ahead and how?

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Rushikesh Aravkar: The three important consumer trends in food packaging that brands need to take heed of include:

Rushikesh Aravkar

1. Conscious consumerism warrants the responsible use of plastics. To tackle this, brands can evaluate their packaging portfolio to ensure that plastic is used responsibly. This may require the removal of longstanding packaging elements such as trays, overcaps, or a simple redesign to enable lighter weight.

2. Develop an early-mover advantage by staying ahead of the recycling curve. This is an opportune time for brands to contribute to a packaging circular economy by investing in innovations that make plastic packaging as simple to recycle as possible and enable recycling infrastructure so that what’s discarded is fed back into the recycling stream.

3. Keep an eye on India’s zero-waste movement. Brands can tap into this trend with shelf-ready solutions that offer simple, branded dispensing in-store. Brands can engage consumers with premium collectible reusable containers. Such a feature would appeal to the 47% of women aged 18-34 for whom reusability of packaging is an important attribute.

DKD: What are the immediate changes that food brands need to bring to their packaging to appeal to the masses?

RA: Even though plastics remain the most versatile, functional and cost-efficient package materials, they suffer from an image problem. But half of Indians associate plastics with pollution; this association is even stronger among eco-conscious Indians.

Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) highlights that 82% of food launches in India in the last five years have used plastics as a primary packaging material reflects how it’s largely not viable for food packaging to eliminate plastics entirely. Brands need to make responsible use of plastics in their packaging. At the same time, it’s important to inform and involve consumers in the sustainability journey.

Hence it is important for companies and brands to:

1. Underscore the fact that plastics are inherently beneficial, the issue lies with waste management

2. Drive efforts to collect, segregate and recycle discarded plastic packaging

3. Improve product-to-package ratio; make packaging that is easier to recycle. Brands can focus on optimizing over-engineered packaging and minimizing material usage at the design stage.

4. Engage consumers via on-pack messaging and marketing communications.

5. Finally, brands can strive to help close the recycling loop by promoting mono-material plastics’ recyclability and educating consumers on how to dispose of them; Encouraging and enabling consumer participation with incentivized plastic ‘take-back initiatives and use recycled plastic content to drive a circular economy.

DKD: What are the packaging design and changes that brands can adapt to increase their appeal to consumers?

RA: According to 2019 Mintel Global Packaging Trend ‘Connected Packaging’ multiple technologies are enabling brands to connect physical packaging to the virtual world. Easy access to smartphones and cheaper internet has boosted the number of tech-savvy consumers in India. Moreover, the rise in digital payments is making consumers familiar with the practice of scanning a QR code. By using digital technologies such as QR codes, augmented/virtual reality and other forms of connected packaging, brands can drive transparency and traceability to tackle the issues of food safety and at the same time deliver promotions, experiences or product-specific information.

As the issue of packaging waste remains in the spotlight and consumer awareness rises, brands can use eco-friendly packaging to create a stand-out for their products on the shelf. According to Mintel GNPD, in India, on-pack ethical claims such as environmentally friendly packaging and recycling in food launches have doubled to 10% of total launches in the last five years. In comparison, there still remains room for progress globally. This is especially true when we look at the UK market, where one in every two food launches in the last year has made these claims.

Finally, Indian consumers prioritize healthy lifestyles and look for natural and nutritious food and drink, both of which are factors that suggest a clean label could emerge as a trend in India. Brands that want to be at the forefront of this trend can declutter the pack design and emphasize a short ingredient list and nutritional panel on the primary display, in line with Mintel’s 2018 Packaging Trend Clean Label 2.0. For example, the Indian snack bar brand ‘The Whole Truth’, claims to be the ‘cleanest snack ever’, and has an essentialist design focusing on only 5-7 ingredients.

Dev Kumar Dutta: What efforts do you see brands and packaging producers are putting in so that their packaging can follow Reduce, Reseal and Reuse?

RA: Brands can focus on optimizing over-engineered packaging and minimizing material usage at the design stage. For example, Britannia has reduced the amount of plastics used in its products by 15% per tonne of finished goods. It has also eliminated the plastic trays from its Treat Cream biscuits.

Food brands can also take inspiration from Dow’s Rethink+ digital plastics take-back program and incentivize recycling. In collaboration with Recykal, Rethink+ aims to prevent post-consumer plastic waste from going to landfills by digitally connecting waste generators, aggregators, processors and recyclers. Using Recykal’s UZED app consumers can list their recyclables and schedule a collection or drop off their items at collection centers, earning reward points for online vouchers. The waste collected is streamlined to different recycling processes such as upcycling and pyrolysis (converting plastic waste into energy).

Brands can also look at making packaging reuse fun and can find creative ways to encourage consumers to reuse the packaging and use on-pack communication to educate on various ways to go about it.

Dev Kumar Dutta: Any packaging trends that you think brands need to keep in mind?

RA: To summarize, a few global trends that brands in India need to take note of include:

Mintel 2020 Packaging Trend ‘Plastic Responsible’: As elaborated in this trend, consumers want the packaging to deliver convenience and plastics is often the material of choice thanks to their versatile material properties. However, consumers will also no longer accept ‘excess’ packaging, with a growing clamor for brands to use less.

Mintel 2020 Packaging Trend ‘Ahead of the Recycling Curve’: This trend highlights that successful brands and package manufacturers will be those with first-to-market technologies that set the stage for future recycling opportunities. There exists an opportunity for brands to contribute to a packaging circular economy by investing in innovations that make plastic packaging as simple to recycle as possible and enable recycling infrastructure so that what’s discarded is fed back into the recycling stream.

Mintel 2020 Packaging Trend ‘In-store Refill’: This trend discusses how the fast growth of independent packaging-free stores is driving retailers to consider how to bring refill in-store. In May 2020, Nestlé tested reusable and refillable dispensers to sell soluble coffee products in unpackaged formats in Switzerland. In India too, zero-waste stores selling organic products are sprouting across the country. Brands can tap into this trend with shelf-ready solutions that offer simple, branded dispensing in-store. Brands can engage consumers with premium collectible reusable containers.

Mintel 2019 Packaging Trend ‘Connected Packaging’: Easy access to smartphones and cheaper internet has boosted the number of tech-savvy consumers in India. Moreover, the rise in digital payments is making consumers familiar with the practice of scanning a QR code. The use of on-pack digital technology such as QR codes to boost consumer engagement remains underused in India. Connected packaging can help tackle issues of food safety with authentication and traceability, and enable gamification, promotion and other fun ways to drive engagement.

Dev Kumar Dutta
Dev Kumar Dutta
Dev Kumar Dutta is senior associate editor at The Packman. He joined The Packman in 2018 and comes with extensive print journalism experience.

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