Recap of The Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit 2015

The Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit was held in Chicago from July 7-8 and included over 30 conference sessions featuring a mix of CPG and packaging companies, as well as an expanded product showcase. The event’s dual track program highlighted marketing and branding strategies as well as production and engineering technical intelligence focused on packaging innovations and solutions for tomorrow’s consumer. Below are the key findings that the North America Euromonitor research team of Eric Penicka and Sean Kreidler observed.

Product innovation was a core theme of the event. Consumer needs are more robust than they were just 10 years ago. Increasingly they are more willing to take risks and try new products. To succeed in the face of mounting competition, standing still is not an option. It is important to identify consumers’ struggles and packaging innovation offers a great opportunity to attend to them. Product reformulation is risky, coupons short-lived and SKU rationalization not necessarily noticed by consumers. Simple packaging redesign is the most obvious and visual way to facelift a product. Now more than ever technology advances have made prototyping more cost effective and easy, stimulating innovation. Also, it is important to think beyond traditional competitors when innovating. For example, Coca-Cola is not only competing with Pepsi for consumer attention, but it is also competing with yoga classes or pints of Ben and Jerry ice cream, that also offer stress release and comfort. Dutch Boy successfully revamped their packaging from metal cans to plastic tubs, fulfilling a need for consumers for greater ease of use. This trend caught on in food categories too and can be seen in Domino sugar, Folgers coffee and Similac powder milk formula.

Technology-based change and solutions were also a prominent topic at the conference. With increasingly hectic lifestyles and the proliferation of SKUs, grocery shopping is a typically unenjoyable experience for many consumers. Unconventional shopping options are rapidly evolving to meet their needs. Blue Apron, Wholeshare, Instacart, Peapod and Amazon Prime Pantry look to facilitate the process through online purchasing and home delivery options. This shift poses new challenges to a product’s packaging to withstand new environments and adapt to new dynamic supply chains and channel preference. Manufacturers face a dilemma how to control their brand quality since product ownership occurs at a different location in the supply chain. Who is responsible if something does not ship or meet consumer expectations?

Packagers are also very interested in the demographics of the market. The world is ageing and many need to acknowledge and attend to the needs of older consumers through packaging solutions. Easy-to-open closures are gaining traction as older consumers lose their grip. However, these new formats must be intuitive for people with poorer eyesight and years of following the same patterns. Smaller pack sizes are also good options as most elderly people do not live with large families, at least in developed countries, nor buy large quantities of groceries during each trip to the store since they go more frequently. Catering to Millennials will continue to develop and packaging can play an important role. These consumers are connected and want to feel extraordinary. So how can a company transition from selling a product to selling an experience? Grölsch beer in Russia did just this through the development of a technology and campaign to connect with this segment. Once the bottle is opened, a Bluetooth beacon activates and identifies the consumer’s smart device via radio signals when brought in close proximity. Then a wireless signal transmits a code to enable people to access an online movie for free.