Ugly snacks and blank slates

7 April 2017

Ugly snacks and blank slates

Ugly snacks and blank slates

The food and beverage market is constantly shifting and adapting to new trends and demands. Canadean offers insight into the materials and format outlook for food and beverage packaging in 2017, and how some of the latest trends are making an impact.

According to the most recent Canadean research, the food and beverage sector will see roughly 2.8 trillion packaging units in 2017, with food claiming 63% of that number and beverages taking 37%. Further investigation shows that that within the food market, the dominant formats are flexible packaging and rigid plastics, followed by paper and board. Flexibles make up 49% of packaging formats in food and rigid plastics take 29%, combining for an almost 80% share of packaging formats in food. Beverage has a markedly different makeup, with rigid plastics leading at a 36% market share, glass at 30% and rigid metals at 20%.

This information is useful in forming a basic impression of the makeup of the packaging market when it comes to food and drink. As most consumers are aware, different drinks will come in different packaging depending on value and sector; for example, premium spirits, wine and beer will tend to be sold in glass, while soft drinks and sports drinks will invariably appear in plastic bottles or metal cans, with paper beginning to see growth as it moves from about a 7% market share. This is reflected on almost any retail shelf.

What is quite interesting is the sheer scale of flexible packaging’s dominance of the food market. The trends towards lightweighting and convenience of eating on the go are responsible for some of these numbers, and they are only expected to continue to rise. Rigid plastics will also see growth as consumers continue to seek out lightweight, shelf-stable and convenient food products that hit the mark between tasty and easy to prepare.

Projected material makeup in food and beverage packaging (million pack units), 2017



Rigid metal

Paper and board

Flexible packaging

Rigid plastics


Beer and cider







Hot beverages







Soft beverages





























 Projected material makeup in beverage packaging, 2017





Rigid metal


Paper and board


Flexible packaging


Rigid plastics



Projected material makeup in food packaging, 2017





Rigid metal


Paper and board


Flexible packaging


Rigid plastics



The packaging market ebbs and flows with the needs of consumers. As they become more determined that their individuality shines through in their purchasing decisions, and the ability to buy online and access global markets gets easier, food and beverage companies must employ more sophisticated tools to ensure that they give their customers what they want while continuing to generate growth and consistency in their own businesses. Canadean has identified a number of trends to look out for in the food and beverage markets in 2017.


 Ugly is beautiful


So-called ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables are currently seeing the limelight as snacks in their own right or as food and beverage ingredients. Consumers have seen that a surprisingly high percentage of fruits and vegetables are rejected for cosmetic reasons, and they are starting to fight back against such wasteful practices with their purchasing decisions. ‘Ugly’ is emerging as a badge of honour on fruits and vegetables, conveying authenticity and eco-friendliness while reducing waste and saving money.

As potato growers know all too well, potatoes and uniformity can be mutually exclusive. Many potatoes are too small or too large for crisps, while others may be blemished or discoloured. These would normally be discarded or used as animal feed, but Uglies crisps, crafted from ‘rejected potatoes’ with minor imperfections, alter that dynamic.

“The most common reason for potatoes to be rejected is that they are too dark, but it turns out that consumers actually like the darker potatoes. We asked ‘why not embrace the ugly produce movement?'" said Dwight Zimmerman, vice-president of business development for Dieffenbach's Potato Chips, the maker of Uglies.

Marketing has a big role to play in the success of Uglies. The ‘rejected’ ingredients are promoted as the reason to buy the product, not just an added sustainability bonus, taking centre stage on the packet. The tagline ‘Reducing waste and saving you money’ is featured at the top of the pack, targeting eco-conscious and money-saving consumers alike, and positioning the brand as ethical and eco-friendly.

Founded by two Georgetown University students keenly interested in food issues, Misfit Juicery was created to combat the fact that 20 billion pounds of fruits and vegetables go unharvested or unsold every year. The firm's juices are made with 70–80% "recovered fruits and veggies”. Misfit Juicery uses fruits and vegetables not perfect enough to make the cut in the fresh fruit and vegetable aisles of the supermarket for its cold-pressed juices.

In both of these cases, no major material or format changes to the packaging were necessary, meaning that the brands are able to expand their market and reach without having to reinvest in capital equipment to protect it.


Cold is hot


‘Cold’ is gaining currency as a descriptor for new packaged beverages. The word is fast becoming shorthand for a product that is perceived to be less processed, purer and cleaner, with higher levels of nutrients.

Most juices are heat-pasteurised, sometimes at temperatures as high as 120°F, which can strip ingredients of nutrients. Australia’s Impressed Juices are cold-pressed from fresh fruits or vegetables and are never heat-treated, which helps retain natural vitamins, minerals and enzymes. ‘Cold’ means more than just cold-pressing for Impressed Juices, as the company's juices are chilled throughout the production and distribution process.

While the clean-label concept is poorly understood by some consumers, the connotations of the word cold, especially as its use grows, could help cut through this confusion.

This product demands a different approach to packaging materials and containers. The juice must pass through an improved logistics process to reach the retail shelf in the best possible condition, after maintaining the optimum temperature throughout transit. PET bottles are resilient enough to pass through the supply chain, while barriers can be added to extend shelf life and ensure that the juices taste as good at point of use as they did when they were made.


 Cold-brewed coffee expands


Renowned for its smooth taste and rich caffeine content, cold-brewed coffee – coffee steeped in cold water for as long as 12 hours, or longer – has emerged as the next big thing in ready-to-drink coffee.

Sandows London’s Cold Brew Coffee is a great example of how cold-brewed coffee has come into its own and seized the stage. Packaged in a blow-moulded, flask-like bottle, the use of glass ensures that it chills quickly and remains cold for longer once removed from the fridge for consumption. The flask’s shape, colour and premium finish, usually associated with spirits, gives the product appeal to the ‘trendy’ audience. The design is minimalist, using just two colours, and fits well with the ‘raw coffee’ message.


Blank-slate brands


‘Blank-slate brands’ are brands created from scratch by large corporations that often have the aura of brands created by smaller firms. They are free of the baggage and history that can prohibit existing brands from pursuing market niches or new opportunities.

The emergence of more blank-slate brands is driven by current distrust of big companies. Younger consumers, in particular, may be suspicious of big, established brands because they often do not represent the values and ethics the consumers respect. The blank-slate branding approach frees legacy marketers from any potential backlash or self-imposed restrictions that can come with extending to new demographic groups.

An example of this is Kraft Heinz’s blank-slate Devour brand of frozen food, aimed at millennial men who tend not to eat frozen dinners. Devour is flavour-forward, calorie-dense (at over 700 calories per entrée) and ‘politically incorrect’, advertised with the sexually suggestive tagline "Food you want to fork". The packaging uses conventional ready-meal plastics and trays to make the meals easy to prepare and maintain quality, encouraging time-poor male consumers to prepare full meals quickly.


 Full disclosure

The growing importance of issues like product safety and provenance is forcing fast-moving consumer goods companies to become more transparent and explicit about how products are made and where ingredients come from. Consumers are more sceptical about marketing messages today and want additional proof that business practices pass muster.

It is not enough to be transparent, however; trust levels vary by information source. Consumers see impartial professionals, family and friends as more trustworthy than on-pack claims or brand and manufacturer websites: while nearly 25% of consumers trust medical professionals’ advice, only about 8% trust on-pack claims.

In the UK, this distrust has been caused in part by the ‘fake farm’ controversy with retailers. Realising that consumers trust and connect with food sourced from local farms more than large corporations, UK retailers such as Tesco unveiled a series of brand names including Boswell Farms in 2016 that sound local but are not; meat from Tesco's Boswell Farms and Woodside Farms labels was found to have come from the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland. The practice generated a backlash from UK farmers, and the National Farmers Union lodged a complaint. A study commissioned by the union found that around one in five respondents were unclear as to whether fake farm brands were real farms.

Sourcing is also a hot issue in packaged seafood due to mislabelling concerns. A study by environmental group Oceana using DNA analysis found that one in three fish are mislabelled in the US. With ‘fake’ seafood so common, marketers like Salty Girl Seafood are going to extraordinary lengths to add transparency to the industry

Salty Girl Seafood considers itself to be "more than a seafood company" and sees itself as a driving force for change in seafood sourcing. Every fish Salty Girl sells is wild caught and evaluated to ensure that the specific fishery, gear type, species and location meets the company's sustainability standards. This translates into the packaging, too, as entering the code found on each pack at the company’s website reveals to the consumer where and when that fish was caught.

Using clear packaging to convey transparency, Sprout Foods' new stand-up pouch uses clear packaging to make a case for transparency "inside and out." The brand offers baby food made from whole foods, not from concentrate, with reduced processing steps to preserve purity and integrity. Clear packaging supports the concept of transparency by offering visual disclosure of product ingredients.


Healthy alcohol


With consumers gravitating toward healthier choices across the food and beverage spectrum, including alcoholic beverages, firms are beginning to focus on calorie reduction, energy enhancement, better-for-you ingredients and ‘clean’ formulations in alcoholic drinks.

Alcoholic beverage companies are eager to tap into the high growth rates of non-alcoholic categories like bottled water, which is rising at the expense of carbonated soft drinks due to consumer concerns about calorie content and sweetener issues. With global governments taking a more negative view of alcohol consumption and consumers paying more attention to health concerns, brewers expect low and no-alcohol products to be strong platforms for future growth.

While this trend may not necessarily lead to differences in packaging formats (in the case of non-alcoholic beer, for example, the same bottle shape and size is employed as in regular beer bottles), it is leading to companies searching for clever ways to distinguish themselves on shelf and highlight their updated claims. Labelling, QR codes and smart packaging solutions will see growth in this space as companies show consumers at point of sale the difference between offerings.

Carlsberg recently disclosed that it plans to double the volume of its craft and non-alcoholic beer from 6% to 12% by 2022. AB InBev expects that at least a fifth of its total beer volume worldwide will come from low or no-alcohol products by the end of 2025, up from around 6% at present.


 Milk made without the cow


Perfect Day’s dairy-free milk offers the taste and nutrition of cow's milk ‘without the cow’. It is made using a fermentation process similar to that used in beer, albeit one that uses cellular technology inputs more closely associated with medical applications. Perfect Day starts with a strain of yeast it calls Buttercup, into which a cow's DNA sequence is inserted to enable it to make milk protein. This yeast is then fed sugar (from renewable sources) and allowed to ferment, transforming sugar into real milk proteins. A special mix of plant-based sugars, fats, and minerals are added to complete the process, producing milk without hormones, lactose, and so on.

Perfect Day can use the same packaging as regular dairy to enforce the message of its equality with dairy without the need to use cows, but the product has the added benefit of a longer shelf life than regular dairy due to its manufacturing process. This means it could also be packaged in a carton, bottle or jar to attract different consumer groups.





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