Innovation in cheese packaging
Cheese report Innovation in cheese packaging
The key question when thinking about cheese packaging is what do consumers want, says Dairy Marketing Expert Hamish Renton. Assumptions on whether single packs, twins, triples or larger block packs are likely to increase or decrease in popularity are crucial. They underpin capital investment decisions and hence the types of packs seen on shelf.
I was running a project for a client recently and one of the key recommendations was that they consider the technological possibilities for packaging in isolation from the expected consumer and retail customer demand. Just because a format is possible to be developed, doesn’t mean it should be. The critique of right technology, wrong application is too often heard in dairy packaging circles.
One of the issues for block cheese packaging innovations being able to measure the impact of the innovation in an environment of promotional churn. Due to the very high level of discounting amongst brands in the UK and abroad, many consumers switch robotically from one brand of cheese to another depending on which is on promotion. Thus, attempting to isolate packaging as a single variable and discern its impact is very difficult. This deep discounting works against dairies being able to offer value added packaging features as very often the absolute focus is on price.
Hook and loop type closures have recently launched, with a number of packaging manufacturers developing and trialing proprietary systems. However, wrangles over patents are complicating matters. For instance, one leading hook and loop manufacturer is using pre-made bags to protect a patent, with the effect that their system is slow and uneconomic. The advantage of hook and loop is the ability to re-close consistently and completely, which stems from the large surface area of its male and female closures. The second advantage is intuitive appeal -it is a mechanism consumers are very familiar with in everyday life. Without giving too much away, an upcoming launch in Belgium of block cheese hook and loop could prove very interesting.
Zip style closures, the current leading value added format, are dominant in the UK. Innovation here has been slow since the emergence of the format seven years ago, with the major effort going into incremental revisions of the existing format such as double zip. However these iterations still suffer from the core weaknesses of zip, which are contaminants and transline alignment problems.
In the future, the spread of hook and loop closures, especially in the US, looks to be pointing the way.
Grated cheese packaging has seen innovation over recent months with the advent of the Dairy Crest Chedds proposition. Whilst this has not been the runaway sales success envisaged, it has brought some interesting single serve packaging formats onto the market. It could be that Chedds ends up signposting the way for single serve adult snacking cheese, or a twist on the current Eat Me, Keep Me propositions. Extending Zip as well as hook and loop onto grated cheese packs makes sense as the cheese needs to be airtight to avoid spoiling and yet withstand sprinkling and pouring.
European sliced cheese has a classically rigid texture, which is why many producers are moving to more flexible packs with reseal functionality. This format is a flowrap envelope with a sticker and even Leerdamer which has a signature rigid tray, is moving to this format. The drivers are a desire to reduce costs through packaging light weighting, whilst retaining functionality.
In the UK, innovation has focused on iterating the current format as UK sliced cheese, especially Cheddar, does not have texture characteristics that lend itself to a continental style format. Instead, a semi rigid base with a top web reseal dominates, with little change to this format seen for over six years. Predicting the future for sliced cheese formats is difficult, but there will be rewards for the dairy that develops a new, value added format that really delivers for consumers.
Value engineering, rather than innovation dominates cheese film. However, there are a number of emergent innovations around film that could extend shelf life and reduces leaks.
These revolve around the seal itself and new configurations of barrier layers.