It’s the food manufacturer’s lament: Consumers today want it all. They demand freshness, premium quality, sustainability and a low price point … and, by the way, they want it to last forever, too.
While it might not be feasible to give consumers everything, the latest technology in packaging reclosability could bring balance to a seemingly impossible equation.
“It’s possible, but of course, there’s balance,” said Katie Larson, vice president of sales, Bedford Industries. “We constantly work with our customers, and if the first go-round isn’t what they’re looking for, we can change a color or wire gauge, eliminate plastic or add paper — whatever type of trick it takes — to get the look, feel and functionality they’re going for. But no matter what, the reclosability is key.”
Despite the rise in snacking occasions and a huge consumer emphasis on health and wellness, large package sizes still dominate store shelves with giant cookie packs or bread loaves with 20 to 24 slices. People want help controlling portions. They also want to feel good about their product choice by avoiding the landfill with either wasteful packaging or spoiled food. Reclosable features check all those boxes, especially for a premium product with a higher price point.
“People don’t typically finish an entire package of most products in one sitting, nor do they want to throw them away,” said Josh Hughes, sales account manager, Burford Corp. “An easy, convenient and reclosable package helps consumers feel they’re getting their money’s worth when they’ve purchased a premium-level product.”
In the world of consumer packaged goods (CPG), “easy open” is often easier said than done. Consumers may be avid label readers, but when it comes to package directions, they aren’t so much. So, when adding the extra step for reclosability, clear communication is vital.
“As basic as it sounds, ease of use is an important aspect,” Mr. Hughes said. “If the closure method is not intuitive, the original packaging could be discarded, or the consumer could bypass it altogether by transferring it into another container.”
Oftentimes, people don’t want to think, especially when it’s time for an indulgence. They want to dive right in without having to work for it. That means the initial open must be easy. Same goes for the subsequent uses, but if the first open and close don’t go well, there may not be a second.
For this reason, Slide-Rite is one of the more popular reclosing technologies, said Dennis Gunnell, president, Formost Fuji.
“Function has to be simple and easy,” he said. “Slide-Rite is more expensive than a simple zipper, but people know how to use it; they don’t have to be taught. It opens one way and closes the other.”
However, this doesn’t mean that bakers and snack producers should overlook an opportunity to educate the end user. Sometimes it just means making better callouts for easy-to-use reclosability.
“Educating consumers in eye-catching ways can keep them from wasting the package,” said Angela McDaniel, marketing and sales coordinator, Formost Fuji.
When people purchase a premium baked good or snack, they expect a commensurate experience every time they come back to the bag.
“An item closed with a Kwik Lok comes with a benefit because the package can be reclosed time and again, and the product stays fresh,” said Ron Cardey, senior vice president of customer engagement, Kwik Lok.
Reclosability benefits are multi-layered when it comes to sustainability.
With a full-size package, reclosability means the food will stay fresher longer, which reduces the need for increased packaging consumption. For example, Bedford’s tin-tie closure allows consumers to keep a bag of donuts fresher longer.
“It allows for reuse of the product because people aren’t typically consuming all 25 donuts in one sitting,” Ms. Larson said.
Kwik Lok’s EcoLok technology is gaining visibility for its ustainability in the United States and beyond.
Meanwhile, the Green Biz conference, held Feb. 4-6 in Phoenix, hosted more than 1,500 companies from business, government, academia and NGOs to discuss sustainability issues across various industries. At Green Biz, Stephanie Paxton Jackson, Kwik Lok co-owner, served on a panel with Ashley Hall, Walmart lead for sustainable packaging and Alix Grabowsky, materials lead for World Wildlife Fund, to discuss setting, implementing and achieving plastics packaging goals.
“What that highlights for us as an organization is that we have the commitment and values from the owners,” Mr. Cardey said. “Our three owners are entirely committed to sustainability, and they’re walking the walk.”
Sustainable packaging isn’t just about keeping the bag out of the garbage, though; it’s about keeping what’s inside the bag out of the trash, too. In a bread bag, there’s a certain amount of necessary airflow built into the design. But eventually freshness will leak out through the porous properties of the bag, making the reclose vital to optimum shelf life.
“You never want to open a package and not have a way to properly reclose it because as soon as you can’t reclose it, you’re going to have food waste, and that’s just as bad as plastic pollution,” Mr. Cardey said.
From a consumer perspective, the sustainability halo goes beyond food waste and encompasses food safety as well.
“Food safety is clearly another primary concern for consumers, and having a laser-stitched package that is also reclosable is a big benefit,” Mr. Cardey said. “In addition to reclosability, having evidence of a package not being tampered with is hugely important.”
Additionally, Burford offers a hot air, non-contact sealing unit for tamper-evident type closures, said Mr. Hughes.
“This can pair with our Twist Tyer to provide an additional layer of safety,” he said.
But can the sustainability halo sustain the price increases often necessary to offset the cost associated with reclosability options? Yes, if the brand is strong enough.
Building a better brand
With all the consumer needs that reclosability addresses, this technology also offers opportunities — verbal and non-verbal — to tout the benefits of a brand.
“From our standpoint, bags already carry a lot of graphics,” Mr. Cardey said. “But we have labels that attach to the lock. That becomes a perfect opportunity to tout all the benefits of your product packaging.”
Real estate is precious on a baked good package, and Bedford’s CloseIt Clips have enough room for small branding messages, said Ms. Larson.
“It’s a small real estate area, but in terms of the branding, people are taking the closure on and off every time they open a loaf of bread or buns,” she said. “It reminds them where they bought the product and what the brand was, and then hopefully they have that brand recognition the next time they go to the supermarket.”
Reclosability helps strengthen loyalty to a premium brand, too. With a convenient product that touts a healthy halo on a brand with an already loyal following, reclosable packaging for a premium item offers the potential to garner a higher price point if a CPG company is willing to make the investment to add that complexity to the packaging line.
“When you look at a premium product like an artisan multigrain bread that may be retailing for $3.99, the investment is a small price to pay for the reclosability,”
Mr. Cardey said. “So many companies are coming out with really big goals right now, so every little bit counts.”