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Sustainable packaging: Lisa Owen, rigids team leader for NatureWorks PLA at Cargill Dow shows retailers how to capture consumer interest with sustainable packaging.

What is sustainable packaging and how does it differ from other forms of packaging?

Lisa Owen: Many fresh food products are surrounded by or contained in plastic materials. Whether they are packed in film or thermoformed containers, in bulk packs or single-portioned disposables, these packaging materials are derived from petroleum-based plastic.

Today, "bio-based" packaging products, such as NatureWorks PLA, are at the forefront of a growing movement in the food industry to find more natural-based packaging alternatives with reduced environmental impact. NatureWorks PLA is a polymer that is 100% derived from annually renewable resources, such as corn.

Packaging made from NatureWorks PLA looks and performs like traditional plastic. It is clear and strong to showcase the fresh food products inside. However, the natural source of the packaging provides Food companies and retailers a significant opportunity to differentiate their product with consumers at the point of sale.

What's the advantage of using this type of packaging?

The simple fact of today's retail environment is that stores must continue to innovate to succeed. Many grocers are adjusting their store formats to capture value from their fresh food perimeter departments, such as the delicatessen, bakery and prepared food areas. These high profile departments are ideal for driving traffic through the use of packaging made from NatureWorks PLA. Offering fresh, natural foods in natural-based packaging piques consumer interest and helps to drive trial and additional sales. This, in turn, helps enhance line store's fresh food marketing.

The idea of packaging from corn also enhances consumers' experience with food, making it seem fresher and more wholesome. Customers essentially think of the entire offering as "new and improved."

What types of products are well suited to be placed in this type of packaging?

Packaging made with NatureWorks PLA is ideal for in-store brands and perimeter departments, such as the delicatessen, produce and baked goods sections of grocery stores. Rigid containers and film overlays for ready-to-eat pasta, salads, produce, meals and cheeses can help retailers showcase the appeal of fresh, natural food in natural-based packaging. Pies and other baked novelties also are an excellent fit for NatureWorks PLA, since its high gloss and clarity attracts consumers to the tasty, products inside.

Will consumers readily accept this type of packaging?

A new study conducted in May 2003 by the Grapentine Company, Inc. revealed that a large group of consumers are interested in purchasing fresh food in natural based packaging. These consumers are willing to pay extra for fresh food if it is contained in a package derived from nature. The study results suggest grocery stores could differentiate themselves and reap greater sales in their fresh food departments by changing to natural based packaging.

A representative sample of more than 600 consumers responded to the survey. Participants had a household income of at least $50,000 per year and were the primary grocery shopper for the household. The national survey evaluated consumer attitudes about a number trends in the grocery industry, including packaging made from NatureWorks PLA.

The study showed a majority of consumers rank the concept of purchasing fresh food items in natural-based packaging that can be composted on par with two of the industry's highest selling product trends: fresh herbs and spices, and organic meats and vegetables. Nearly 60% of those surveyed ranked the new packaging concept desirable and agreed that it conveyed the perception that food contained in the packaging is fresh and safe for their families. In addition, there was a strong correlation between those who found the concept very desirable and those willing to pay more for fresh food items served in the new material.

Should products placed in this packaging be merchandised any differently than those in other packaging?

Yes, Corn-based packaging offers the opportunity for retailers to promote a "natural package for a natural product" at the point-of-sale. Customer interest in the com-based packaging helps drive trial and additional sales.

Using and co-branding with NatureWorks PLA also can help retailers generate additional margins for store brands. Offering fresh food products in a natural based package seems to enhance customers' perceptions of the food, making it seem "fresher" and more wholesome.
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Title Annotation:Deli/Prepared Foods
Publication:Grocery Headquarters
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Words:688
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