SIG category manager: On-the-go F&B trend will recover from COVID-19 setback

2021-12-25 08:36:52 By : Ms. Rita Xu

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14 Dec 2021 --- On-the-go consumption was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic but the trend will remain strong into the future, according to Anna Rabanus, global category manager at SIG. In this exclusive interview, Rabanus explores major trends in F&B packaging and processing and outlines the aseptic specialist’s latest solutions to expanding e-commerce and product transparency demands. 

“Flexible pack sizes that fit one’s consumption pattern is a basic requirement for today’s consumers. The on-the-go lifestyles of Millennials and Gen Z led to a surge in single-serve products over the past few years,” she explains.

“Meanwhile, single-serve packs continue to be popular, especially in categories such as flavored milk, fortified beverages and yogurts, including drinking yogurts for breakfast on-the-go.”

“Food safety and wellness are of paramount importance in the minds of the consumer, and aseptically packaged single-serve products offer more than just convenience. They come with the assurance of food safety along with controlled portion sizes, low cost and detailed nutritional information.”

Rabanus stresses that food and beverage manufacturers must be able to react fast and efficiently to new demands, as consumer trends and tastes are constantly changing. The key to high-performance filling is ensuring both speed and efficiency simultaneously.

Young consumers prioritize environment Millennials and Gen Z are among the most environmentally conscious consumers, making it important for product companies to ensure their packaging combines environmental sustainability and convenience to attract these increasingly wealthy consumer groups.

Signature 100 packaging material showed 66% less carbon impact against standard carton packs in an LCA. “[Environmental] sustainability is the new competitive edge, but it means different things to different consumers,” continues Rabanus. “From organic ingredients and fair trade practices to green manufacturing processes and sustainable packaging, consumers want the best for themselves and others.”

“Conscious of the impact of their choices, an increasing number of consumers are willing to switch to more sustainable brands. This trend makes it imperative for product companies to showcase their sustainability initiatives through clear communication.”

According to Innova Market Insights, 50% of global consumers would be willing to pay more for environmentally sustainable packaging, while 64% would switch their usual brand for a brand with more environmentally responsible packaging.

Meanwhile, 61% of global consumers would like to see packaging’s level of environmental impact illustrated as a score or grade on-pack.

Flexible filling machines SIG’s range of packaging and flexible filling machines enable dairy companies to meet market requirements while minimizing environmental impact.

“We offer the fastest possible change-over times for formats, volumes and designs, together with the ability to handle multiple product variants on one machine. Dairy companies can meet their current production needs and respond quickly to ever-changing consumer demands, optimize output and reduce system costs,” highlights Rabanus.

The company’s CFA 812 filling machine, for example, allows customers to fill family-size carton packs in combibloc, combifit and combistyle formats with the same base dimensions, filling up to 12,000 packs per hour.SIG’s filling machines are suitable for any type of plant-based beverages.

For high volume flexibility, its CFA 1224 filling machine for single-serve carton packs allows customers to fill up to nine different volumes with a single system, with an output of 24,000 packs per hour. It only takes around two minutes to complete the change-over. Also, if customers sell internationally or make the same product under two different brands, they can change pack designs quickly without stopping production.

Moreover, the flexibility of SIG filling machines extends to different types of products. Customers can use the beverage filling machines for non-carbonated soft drinks, liquid dairy products and low- to medium-viscosity products like smoothies.

The filling machines for beverages also allow customers to add additional ingredients, such as beverages with pieces of real fruit, vegetables or cereal grains. The drinksplus solution helps companies expand their product line, open up new categories and get even more value out of the filling machine.

“Technically, in addition to dairy products, any type of plant-based beverages such as almond, oat or soy drinks can also be filled with our filling machines. In addition, small pieces of nuts or cereal flakes can be added, for example. A product change is possible within minutes,” adds Rabanus.

Climate-friendly packaging SIG’s customers can also choose from various carbon-reduced packaging structures. For example, they can swap from standard cartons to EcoPlus or one of the Signature structures without changing their filling line.

“With the EcoPlus, Signature 100 and Heat&Go packaging structures, SIG was the first in the aseptic carton industry to eliminate the layer of aluminum foil,” recalls Rabanus.

“In this way, the carbon footprint of a carton pack is improved even further. For instance, a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for Signature 100 confirms lower environmental impacts in all impact categories.”

Notably, in the impact category for climate change, a carton pack with Signature 100 packaging material showed 66% less impact than the standard carton pack.”SIG’s drinksplus solution helps companies expand their product line.

“[This reduction] is amazing as the carton packaging per se is already the by far best performer compared to all packaging substrates, as proven by many different LCAs,” says Rabanus.

Embracing expanding e-commerce E-commerce is a long-term trend, exponentially expanded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Home food delivery has especially soared due to lockdowns and other social restrictions. According to Innova Market Insights, 35% of global consumers have increased their home food delivery purchasing since the virus outbreak.

“Not only were more goods being bought online, but there were also many more people buying them, including many first-time adopters. Online purchases by previously infrequent e-commerce users increased 343% since the outbreak. And the shift is here to stay, at least partially,” argues Rabanus.

“Consumer interaction is no longer limited to a single channel. In 2020, omnichannel shopping jumped 50%. Going beyond e-commerce, omnichannel involves interacting with consumers wherever they are – be it online or offline – and delivering a consistent brand experience.”

“For food and beverage manufacturers, omnichannel retailing has its unique challenges. Dependency on retail partners for the last-mile delivery means manufacturers have limited control. It can also become difficult to provide a consistent brand experience across owned and third-party channels. Here, unifying channels like social media, websites, and the often-overlooked product packaging, can be a differentiator,” she explains.

Connective packaging transparency Rabanus highlights the example of SIG’s One Cap, One Code solution used by one of China’s largest dairy producers to drive engagement on WeChat.

“With innovative technology like our Pac.Engage solution, the gap between offline and online channels can be bridged to create an omnipresent brand. Pac.Engage is enabling customers to interact with consumers via the packaging.”Pac.Engage enables consumers to access games and competitions with the scan of a smartphone.

With a simple smartphone scan, consumers can access games, competitions and loyalty programs and vouchers redeemable online.

Manufacturers can also enhance product transparency using SIG’s Connected Pack solutions. For example, Pac.Trust allows manufacturers to follow every stage of their supply chain, helping them monitor processes and make improvements while relaying information to consumers.

“From the raw materials to the pack, Pac.Trust allows producers to not only follow their products through the supply chain but also optimize production and transport performance with access to real-time information,” notes Rabanus.

“With an overview of the entire value chain, maximum transparency means minimized risks. At the distribution level, the product can be followed from the raw material to the point of sale. At the retail level, this traceability reduces food safety problems, allowing the product to be collected quickly and economically.”

The QR code on every product gives consumers access to information on the origin of raw material, product processing data, and proof of authenticity. “This instant visibility increases consumer confidence, strengthens brand loyalty and stimulates sales,” concludes Rabanus.

In 2019, SIG conducted almost 3,000 interviews to understand how consumers interact with QR codes.

This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister website, PackagingInsights.

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