Mike Richmond

First there was scissors, then the press-to-close zipper, and now the “slider” zipper is commonplace for shredded cheese. There are press-to-close zippers on some chunk cheeses, but most of these are difficult to use-the slider zipper on chunk would improve the experience!

Grated parmesan has moved from convolute/spiral wound containers to clear PET plastic containers with easy-to-use individual and recipe closure features. String cheese is often in easy peel flexible structures and processed cheese slices are in easy open-tear strip packages with individually wrapped slices for ease of use. 

I was a part of the Kraft team back in the late 1980s that developed and introduced the zipper on shredded cheese (yes, I know Sargento introduced it first, and it was a great move for them and Kraft). But the real winner was the consumer.

And then came the clear plastic canister for shredded cheese and, this time, Kraft was the leader. This was a more expensive package, as was the zipper and the slider zipper, but these packaging innovations led to improved consumer benefits and growth for material suppliers converters, CPGs, and retailers.

Well, times are a little slower these days in the cheese aisle. Where is the next new slider zipper (although it is a pretty good feature)? Where are the new packaging features for cheese products? Kraft introduced a new “shred your own” parmesan cheese package last year to try to capture the fresh and “experiential” component of using parmesan cheese.

Basically, there is not much new out there and private label also has easy open and reclosable packaging across cheese products. So it’s time to innovate. Remember that packaging is an enabler and can help you deliver against key consumer trends like: taste/freshness, convenience, nutrition, fun, time savings, portability, sustainability, and more.

Time to innovate

All you have to do is get all your insights and knowledge and categorize them against consumer, retailer, and technology trends. And be sure to get 800-number consumer data (great stuff). With this information and knowledge you can often see gaps and issues between your consumer information and the trend information. For example, sustainability is big and so is the shredded cheese package. Why not reduce the shredded cheese package size and reset the peg section in the refrigerated section to handle more SKUs (you will need to have some new products to add into the new space you have created). You have just saved money (smaller package format), you have reduced the environmental burden (less material, less greenhouse gases, etc.), and you have happier retailers (more SKUs for sale in same space); plus the CPG has added a new volume opportunity.

In order to innovate and really make a difference, it needs to be a collaborative and holistic effort. You need to look at packaging as a part of the experience. Consider what Method did for soap packaging. I hope to see some exciting new cheese products, enabled by packaging coming in the next year. Now is a great time to innovate in cheese packaging.

For archived Packaging Points articles visitwww.dairyfoods.com

PTIS and Leading Futurists will be conducting a new and exciting program in 2007 to help companies deliver better results through packaging: The Future of Packaging: The Tipping Point 2007-2016. For more information contact mike@pti-solutions.com.