PORTION PACKAGING CAN PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN MEETING THE DEMANDS AND CONCERNS OF TODAY’S MODERN LIFESTYLE
by Hans Sanders, area sales manager, RPC Cobelplast
As population numbers continue to rise and the pace of life quickens, consumers continuously demand high-quality products in packaging that meets their changing needs.
Customer convenience, whether this is coffee on-the-go or a treat that can be eaten from its container, means that portioning is becoming an increasingly-important pack format across the retail sector.
Just as significant, it is also making a valuable contribution to the drive for more-sustainable solutions.
One key area of environmental concern over the past year has been the amount of food waste generated. WRAP’s high-profile ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ campaign, for example, has highlighted the fact that in the UK we throw away 8.3 million tonnes of food every year.
PLASTICS SCORE HIGHLY
This has helped to focus attention on the important contribution that packaging can make in terms of reducing waste, thanks to its ability to provide the necessary protection, and plastics in particular have scored very highly in this area.
Barrier technologies have enabled the production of packs with very long ambient shelf lives. This has helped reduce the energy demands on refrigeration, while shorter processing cycles allow fast food preservation.
These benefits, coupled with plastics’ traditional advantages of light weight and stackability, which decrease transportation and distribution costs, make a most compelling case for selecting the material for numerous food packaging requirements.
As part of this, portion packs have a very important role to play, responding to changing demographics, especially the rise in single-person households and the overall trend towards greater consumer convenience and eating ‘on the move’.
Effective portioning is also satisfying another growing market, of internet food companies who deliver products and recipe dishes directly to consumer homes. Portion packs are an important part of the foodservice industry too, one notable example being airline catering.
FURTHER MARKETS CAN BENEFIT
While the benefits of portion control are most obviously associated with the food industry, there are other markets that can also take advantage. For instance, in the pharmaceutical and medical sectors, accurate portioning can play an important role in the safe and efficient delivery and dosing of drugs and other health products.
At RPC Cobelplast, we’re seeing growing demand for our range of sheet to be used for portion packs; and one particular advantage of plastic barrier sheet is the choice available.
This means that solutions can be tailored to individual products: for instance, between different materials such as polypropylene or polystyrene, or the appropriate selection of barrier strength to match product needs.
A medium barrier is ideal for items like dairy products and preserves, while a higher barrier is required to deliver even better oxygen, aroma, or water vapour protection.
While the move towards portion packs is becoming noticeable in Western Europe, it’s equally in evidence further afield.
In China, for example, the challenges of food distribution are particularly acute.
With areas of the country having populations close to 20 million, the logistics of the supply chain and the amount of product distributed each day – not to mention the waste that then has to be cleared – are extremely challenging, especially in terms of the economic and ecological impacts.
Effective portion packaging can help to minimise these.
RESPONSE TO CHANGES ‘VITAL’
A vital part of packaging’s role is to respond to lifestyle changes and consumer concerns and requirements.
The need to reduce food waste is driving the demand for smaller and more-convenient package sizes. Plastics are taking a key role, thanks to their ability to substitute heavier and less energy-efficient materials.
Coupled with this, portion control will increasingly be required to contribute to the reduction of food waste and the extension of shelf life – while smaller packs will minimise wastage and the quantity of waste generated at the end of the package’s life.
Portion packs will, therefore, play a key role in the development of innovative solutions to meet the new challenges and opportunities that we will face in the future.