Updating packaging can help shelf-stable foods tap into wellness trend

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Updating packaging can help shelf-stable foods tap into wellness trend

Related tags Nutrition

Minor changes in how packaged foods are presented could help them reclaim sales lost when consumers began favoring fresh and less-processed foods that they perceive as healthier and closer to nature, according to a wellness trend expert. 

Increasingly, “consumers want products as close as possible to the way nature made them [because] there is a feeling that nature has already designed the most nutritious, beneficial foods,” ​said Carl Jorgensen, director of global consumer strategy-wellness at Daymon Worldwide.

He explained: “The present growth of the trend is fueled by greater access to information (internet) and the desire to take control of one’s own health. This contrasts with previous generations’ reliance on doctors’ advice.”

As a result, many consumers are eschewing some traditional CGP foods sold in the center of the grocery store in favor of more fresh foods and produce sold around the perimeter of the store. But there are several ways CPG manufacturers and retailers can redirect consumers back to their products in the store center.

“Wellness offers one of the most profound ways for food manufacturers and retailers to develop that precious trust relationship,” ​which “is done by understanding consumer wellness trends and then using them as a guide to product formulation and consumer communication,”​ Jorgensen said.

For example, he explained consumers are evaluating how effectively a food will support their health and wellness goals by using a two-prong approach: avoidance and favoring.

“They don’t want chemicals, artificial ingredients or sweeteners, hormones or GMOs. That is the avoidance side. The favoring side is they want products with specific benefits, such as gut health or protein, and products that provide all the vitamins and minerals they want,”​ Jorgensen said.

Communicate product attributes

Manufacturers can help consumers and themselves by clearly communicating their products’ attributes and benefits. They can also effectively use “free-from”​ claims to communicate the absence of banned or undesirable ingredients in a “credible and defensible”​ way that also avoids the potential legal pitfalls of using the more generic phrase “natural,”​ Jorgensen said.

“Consumers still respond strongly to the term ‘natural,’ because they want foods that are as close as possible to the way nature made them. We want to believe!”​ he said. “The problems stem from disappointment with foods that are labeled natural but turn out to be not so natural. And, of course, lawsuits by consumer groups have made the use of the term something of a liability for retailers and manufacturers.”

He added: “An enforceable Federal definition of ‘natural’ would clear up the issue,”​ but “the complication is that an entire structure of standards, verification and enforcement would need to accompany a definition of natural.”

Update packaging to portray wellness

Manufacturers may need to update packaging to better communicate these claims, in which case they should consider other changes to better communicate a product’s connection to the wellness trend, Jorgensen said.

“Design packaging to allow room for the story be told,”​ he said, noting that this need not be much space or a complicated story, but just enough to communicate who, where and how a product was made.  He also recommended a firm explain on packaging if the product was reformulated to replace less desirable ingredients with better alternatives.

In addition, he said, firms should “provide windows that show the food inside, rather than unrealistic pictures on the outside”​ that can lead to disappointment. Windows also tap literally and figuratively into consumer desire for transparent and authentic foods, he said.

Sustainable packaging also sends a message that a product is healthier because consumers often think if it is better Earth, it must also be better for them.

Retailing strategies

Retailers also can direct consumers interested in healthy products to the center of the store by positioning products in curated assortments around common health issues, such as digestive health, or common attributes, such as gluten-free, Jorgensen said.

He cautioned retailers against using the term farmers’ market in store displays, product names and private label brands as a way of communicating that a product is natural, fresh and healthy.

“The trend of retailers appropriating the farmers’ market name may eventually produce a backlash from consumers who come to see that they are not farmers’ markets at all and are simply … [attempting] to enjoy the halo effect, seeing it as a kind of greenwashing,” ​he explained.

He added: “There are authentic ways for retailers to participate in the farmers’ market movement that can foster consumer engagement and trust,”​ such as grouping produce from local farms in one location. 

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