To compete in a crowded grocery store aisle, dairy processors are choosing rigid containers that help them stand out and connect with consumer preferences. Grocery shoppers frequently view packaging that shows environmental- and health-consciousness as being as important as the product inside. Here are some of the new trends in rigid containers for dairy products.


Aesthetic appeal

According to Lauren Piekos, marketing director of consumer packaging at Evansville, Ind.-based Berry Global, 64% of consumers try a product because the package catches their eye. This means it is increasingly important for dairy processors to think about aesthetics when choosing the best packaging for their product. New innovations in rigid containers are making it easier for dairy processors to customize the look of packaging without sacrificing the freshness and taste of their products.

“In a sea of sameness at the shelf, being different wins,” Piekos said. She added that packaging doesn’t have to be highly complex or completely customized to make a statement on the shelf.

“Simple things such as substrate color or decoration type or design can help differentiate your package,” Piekos noted.

One new product that helps dairy processors create appealing packaging is Berry Global’s in-mold label system. It allows processors to customize their rigid containers to include decoration directly on the mold itself.

Another new rigid container offering comes from Double H Plastics, Marion, Ind. The company recently released the Paper Sided Lid, or PSL. Previously, processors had to choose between plastic lids, which offer greater protection but limited aesthetic customization, and paper lids, which have more decorative possibilities.

The PSL is a hybrid paper and plastic lid designed to offer more choices to the ice cream and frozen dessert industries. It gives dairy processors the decorative possibilities of paper without sacrificing the protective capabilities of plastic.

“The PSL benefits processors in that it doesn’t show damage like a paper lid; it doesn’t distort upon application, and it provides a print and decorative advantage around the skirt, allowing for it to display well at retail,” said Joe Harp Jr., regional sales manager for Double H Plastic. “The dairy processor and co-packer now have options as they are able to run the PSL with traditional lids with little to no change.”


Sustainability standards

Grocery shoppers are increasingly looking at packaging as part of their “healthy brand criteria,” according to the 2018 “EcoFocus Trend Study,” conducted by EcoFocus Worldwide in partnership with Evergreen Packaging, Memphis, Tenn. This means that the materials used to package products are often considered as important as the products themselves.

Of the 4,000 adults surveyed, 64% said they look for the recyclable label on packaging, while 57% said it was very to extremely important to buy beverages packaged in renewable materials. Almost 50% of those surveyed said they look for paper or plant-based packaging options when grocery shopping.

“How much packaging? Is the packaging recyclable? Is the packaging made with renewable materials? Are the packaging materials plant based? All these issues come into grocery shoppers’ minds as they decide on a food or beverage purchase,” said DeWitt Clark, vice president of sales and marketing for North American packaging at Evergreen Packaging.

Piekos at Berry Global agrees that environmentally friendly packaging is increasingly important to shoppers.

“Many consumers expect packaging to be made as responsibly as possible,” she said. “One of the top attributes that resonate with these consumers is recyclability.”

Evergreen Packaging said it seeks to offer packaging solutions that help processors keep up with the demand for sustainable containers. For example, the company’s Fully Renewable Carton is made from renewable fiber from trees and renewable polyethylene from sugarcane. Evergreen Packaging also has a line of environmentally minded PlantCarton packages.

“At least 80% of Evergreen’s half-gallon, 52- and 59-ounce PlantCarton packages are made of paper that comes from trees from forests where responsible forestry practices are used and the overall rate of forest growth exceeds use,” Clark said.


Powerful protection

Consumers are considering more than the ingredients list when shopping for a product that tastes good. According to the 2018 “EcoFocus Trend Study,” there is a perception that container type can affect taste. Refrigerated cartons and glass packaging score better with consumers than other container options such as aluminum and plastic.

In addition to looking for packaging that preserves flavor, grocery shoppers are concerned with contamination and keeping nutrients fresh. According to the study, 70% of grocery shoppers feel it is extremely or very important that packaging “protects the nutrients in the beverage,” while 60% believe light-protective containers help keep products fresh.

“We’ve long known that grocery shoppers care about the freshness and taste of their beverages and view packaging as playing a key role,” Clark said. “Now, they are increasingly demanding packaging that works harder to protect freshness, taste and nutrients.”

Consumers are not the only ones looking for protective packaging.

“Tamper-evident packaging continues to be of interest at the retail level as it can help to instill retailers with a level of confidence and security that the product is safe for purchase,” Harp said.

Berry Global’s in-mold label package is one such product: It creates a layer of protection to keep products fresh and contaminant-free for consumers and retailers. In addition to aesthetic appeal, the package offers functional benefits such as oxygen, light and ultraviolet light barriers. 


Convenient containers

As many grocery shoppers embrace healthy diets, they also look for food choices that help them stick to smaller portion sizes with fewer calories. 

“We’re seeing that consumers want smaller packaging, and this seems to be driven by convenience and portion preferences,” Harp said. “Many consumers are now buying based upon achieving a specific calorie count.”

Single-serve containers for meals and snacks continue to be popular. These grab-and-go containers serve a dual purpose: convenient options for ready-to-eat meals and portion-controlled serving sizes for healthy diets.

Piekos said consumers are expecting rigid packaging to be convenient and portable. 

“Consumers like packaging which helps with the cooking or preparation process — such as yogurt mix-in toppers, or easy-to-open lidding films.”

She added that 62% of millennials snack throughout the day, and more than half don’t have a regular eating schedule.  

Evergreen Packaging has seen increased interest in beverages as snacks or as meal replacements. To respond, the company created the SmartPak carton, which offers many size options to help processors create the ideal portion size for refrigerated beverages.