Which Comes First: The Food, the Brand or the Packaging?

Robert Herridge, managing director and founder of Packology, looks at where the drivers are in packaging innovation and which comes first: the food, the brand or the packaging?

"As the Deliveroo bike speeds past your deli on its way to another customer how do you feel? Inspired to get in on the act? Because you should do. Growth in third party delivery is revolutionising the ‘to-go’ sector and blurring the lines between traditional ‘take-away’ and retail*. What’s to stop your customer ordering from you via Deliveroo and enjoying your delicious offering without having to come to the store?

The speciality sector has a great opportunity in 2017 to grow business and enhance relationships with customers. But it will need some thinking through. Whilst your customers are used to taking out, will the food and packaging withstand the journey on the back of a bike? Will it arrive in pristine condition reflecting your brand and values? Has the packaging evolved from 1970’s style plain white and foil boxes? Will the packaging protect the contents sufficiently? What, in fact, determines ‘sufficiently’ when your tiramisu is bouncing around on the back of a motorbike. And will your customer be able to dispose of the packaging properly, recycling where appropriate? Or perhaps we should have the driver wait whilst we serve up and hand him back the packaging to dispose of back at the depot?

These are all questions that the industry needs to address if it is going to capitalise on the next wave of opportunity that cutting-edge technology is delivering. Millennials are buying in new and exciting ways and you need to tap into this time-poor, cash-rich demographic that is completely at home with 24/7 convenience.

So, when it comes to new product development, we need to think through the 360° cycle. Food concept, brand engagement, packaging concept, delivery route, protect and preserve strategies and ultimate disposal. It’s no longer good enough to have a great foodie idea, new concepts need to deliver across the product life cycle. And, as we say at Pro2Pac, “without packaging, food is only half the product”.

Technology moves on apace, and with the likes of Amazon Prime Grocery, combined with drone delivery, snacks can be on your doorstep within 30 minutes of the smart phone placed order all from the comfort of your sofa. The age-old question then is still relevant, but it could be argued that in the egg, or rather the eggshell, nature has delivered the most perfect form of packaging. That said, the rigours of the consumer-driven home delivery supply chain, means we still need to protect that egg in transit to avoid a somewhat cold omelette mix being delivered to our door. Here at Packology we usually define all the relevant elements as the ‘entire packaging driven supply chain’, perhaps we should now consider changing this to the ‘entire packaging supply chain, driven’. See what we did there?

And therein lies the problem; in this internet and home delivery age, how should we develop the packaging? For example, we place an order via an electronic media of our choice, so we know what we’re expecting – so do we even need branding? Surely all we’ll need is product name, size and quantity with the usual war and peace on critical info such as ingredients, sell by date, allergens, recycling, etc. So that’s that then – everything delivered in plain brown boxes instead of fancy printed ones. So we’ll have brandless branding. In the marketing world of parent and child brand hierarchy, will the internet retailer become the parent brand. And of course, said brown box needs to be placed in a nicely branded Amazon, Waitrose, Ocado, Sainsbury’s (other retailers are available) brown box too to protect it on its way – well that’s how we expect to receive it isn’t it?

And whilst the eggshell may be nature’s best effort at packaging, in my humble opinion, the Jif lemon is man’s best attempt, just in case you were wondering."

Robert Herridge is curating the speaker programme for Outside the Box at Pro2Pac and Waste-Works, London ExCeL, 20th - 22nd March. The combination of IFE, Pro2Pac and Waste-Works in one venue reinforces the link between food, food packaging and waste reduction.

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