‘Healthy’ Packaging Means Healthy Sales
By Pan Demetrakakes
Health and wellness sell, and packaging helps, but
it’s important to have a clear message
If there’s anything
most food and beverage marketers agree on, it’s that health and wellness are big influences for consumers.
And if there’s anything they splinter on,
it’s how best to cater to those influences.
“Health and wellness” is a broad umbrella
that covers a lot of concerns: nutrition, obesity, slowing the aging
process, the desire for food that’s “closer to the
earth,” avoidance or management of diseases like diabetes and many
more. Food and beverage processors who want to tap into these concerns must
figure out how their packaging can best reflect their intentions.
Consumer yearning toward health and wellness, in its
many aspects, is broad and deep:
• Better-for-you foods sold
$117.6 billion in the United States last year, according to an estimate
• The U.S. market for
functional foods and beverages stands at $29 billion this year, and the
global market will reach $109 billion by 2010, according to estimates by
Global Industry Analysts.
• Retail healthy drink sales
will grow from $119.4 billion to $145.4 billion across Europe and the
United States, according to Datamonitor.
The industry is getting the message. Respondents in a
Datamonitor poll of almost 1,000 executives in consumer packaged goods
(CPG) companies identified health and wellness as the most important in a
choice of 10 general marketing trends. Health was “very
important” in the opinion of 41 percent of the industry respondents,
with only 9 percent calling it “unimportant.”
|Health trend dominates
|As baby boomers age and health
care costs spike, more consumers
look to healthy foods to maintain
or improve their quality of life.
More than 90 percent of brand
owners see this as a major influence
on product development.
|How important is the
(ASKED OF 1,000 CPG EXECUTIVES)
But making sense of the health and wellness trend can
be daunting because it’s so fragmented. It comprises, not only
a lot of disparate consumer concerns, but many different kinds of products,
both specialty and mainstream.
One of the biggest product niches in the
health/wellness category is organic and natural foods and beverages. North
American sales of organic foods and beverages exceed $23 billion.
Organic/natural products tap into several powerful consumer motivators: the
desire to eat foods that are viewed as “fresh” and as minimally
processed as possible, the high-profile scares over tainted food from
overseas, and concern about the environment.
Organic and natural products are especially conducive
to packaging that reinforces the close-to-the earth trope.
Organic and natural products tend to either use earth
tones and uncoated natural stocks, often using retro structures, such as
Ball canning jars, or use a white and bright/clean colors to convey
healthy/freshness, says Lee Sucharda III, president of Design North Inc.,
“They often have very simple architectures.”
Gail Ritacco, vice president of market insights for
the design firm Product Ventures, seconds that notion. Products going for
“natural” appeal should be “things that look like
they’re made with care, more farmstand looking, as opposed to
mass-produced,” she says. “Mass-produced and processed does not
Worries about the Earth
The notion of organic products as being closer to the
earth plays into what can be a powerful consumer motivator: environmental
concerns. About two of three respondents to a poll by the Abundant Forests
Alliance, an advocacy group of lumber and paper companies, rated the
overall quality of the environment in the United States as fair or poor,
and 52 percent said it’s getting worse. Many Americans also have a
sense of inferiority vis-à-vis other countries, according to a poll
by GfK Roper Consulting: 38 percent say the United States is behind other
countries in this regard (see "United States could be 'greener'"
|United States could
|In comparison with other countries,
Americans see their neighbors
and U.S. companies as lagging
in environmental awareness
and action. But will they do
anything more to catch up?
|* Participants not answering make up
Source: GfK Roper Consulting
Sustainable packaging is one of the hottest trends in
packaging, especially with the advent of Wal-Mart’s sustainability
initiative. A certain congruence exists between consumers interested in
sustainable packaging and those who want to consume organic or natural
“To some degree they are the same
audience,” says Jack Gordon, chief executive officer of AcuPoll, a
consumer research firm. “People who tend to be environmentalists tend
to be more into health, organics, nutrition, those kinds of things. But the
people who are into health and nutrition and organic foods are not
In any case, Gordon questions the average
consumer’s depth of commitment to the environment. “Most people
are what we call ‘talking environmentalists,’” he says.
“A talking environmentalist is someone who will do recycling as long
as it’s at the end of the driveway. Consumers like to talk about the
environment, but if you try to charge them 10 cents extra for something
that’s environmentally friendly, generally they won’t buy
Nutrition is another aspect of health and wellness
where a lot of people talk a better game than they play.
“There is always a disconnect between what
people say and what they do,” says Kathy Sheehan, a senior vice
president with GfK Roper Consulting. “Nowhere is this more apparent
than when it gets to things like food and diet. Habits are very hard to
change and inertia is a very powerful force.”
Nevertheless, striving for nutrition, while perhaps
not deeply rooted, is nevertheless quite strong. In a survey conducted last
year by Datamonitor, 58 percent of U.S. respondents said they had increased
their use of nutritional information on product packaging to make purchase
“People are looking at label information with
much more regularity and depth,” says Daniel Bone, a senior consumer
market analyst at Datamonitor. “They’re much more engaged with
the information on the package.”
Lack of information
One reason for the disconnect between what people say
and what they do might be the fact that many consumers simply aren’t
that well informed about nutritional information.
“Despite being more
interested in nutrition, it doesn’t mean that consumers have a
detailed understanding of things like micro-nutrients, omega-3 and
omega-6,” Bone says.
The flip side of that situation is that to attract
consumers’ attention, health claims on packaging don’t have to
be too detailed or sweeping.
“There’s a strong interest among consumers
in any product that can actually promise a health benefit, even if
it’s a light promise,” AcuPoll’s Gordon says. “None
of these products are out there saying they’re going to fix
something. They’re out there saying they’re going to help you
with things. And those kinds of promises are, right now, enough for
consumers to be very interested in those kinds of products.”
At the same time, food formulators and package
designers must keep in mind that for the great majority of consumers, even
those with strong health concerns, taste will make or break the deal.
“Even consumers who are really strongly into
health still eat foods for taste,” Gordon says. “Taste is king
and always will be king.” Balancing the two factors is “the
$64,000 question,” Gordon says, and something that few CPG companies
do well. “What you have to do is make sure you have a high-quality
package that really speaks to taste appeal while making the health claim
... You have to have a high-quality package that says, ‘Hey, this
tastes good,’ and then you make the health claims around that,”
Health and wellness trends, in their various forms,
are going to gain momentum as food and beverage producers find more ways to
“As these things become more mainstream,
it’s also making it easier for people to not have that disconnect
between their attitude and their behavior,” says GfK Roper’s
Sheehan, noting that, for instance, organic food is much more readily
available now than it was 10 years ago. “It’s going to be a
little bit of a push and pull. Consumers will demand [things like] organics
and recyclable packaging, and marketers will provide them, increasing
awareness and demand, so I think they kind of feed off of each other.”
Pan Demetrakakes is the
executive editor for
Food & Drug Packaging,
Beverage Industry’s sister publication. More articles on beverage
packaging can be found at www.bevindustry.com and www.fdp.com .