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The Chinese gold standard.

Takeout is big and growing bigger, even for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but not all takeout packaging is as good as it should or could be. Much of it is treated as a commodity, resulting in takeout packages with mediocre performance. If many takeout packages worked better than they often do, this large and growing industry sector might be even larger and faster-growing than it is.

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We are engaged in processing returns from a national survey on consumer-friendly packaging. The survey includes consumer friendliness ratings of 24 of the ready-to-heat and takeout options available to today's consumers. Besides rating the consumer friendliness of prepared food and ready-to-heat packaging in general, as well as rating brands and categories of takeout packaging -- e.g., McDonald's kids' meals or Chinese takeout -- many respondents made comments which suggest that they use takeout in spite of widespread packaging problems. Here are a few of their comments:

* "I have trouble with the plastic (clam shell) takeout containers at my supermarket because they do not stay closed and my salad has already dumped in with my groceries."

* "Lids on fast food salads are not on properly and spill over in the bag."

* "Pathmark takeout fried chicken almost always comes through box bottom."

* "Wendy's sandwiches-to-go are not properly wrapped so contents fall out, don't stay hot."

One of the early stand-out findings from our consumer friendliness survey is consumers' high regard for the takeout packaging at Chinese restaurants. It's news when McDonald's or Wendy's changes from one material or design to another or a convenience store chain introduces ready-to-eat salads in ready-to-eat-from bowls, but the improvements in Chinese food takeout packages have happened outside of most food marketers' radar screens. The gold standard for takeout packaging exists at many of the thousands of independent Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Korean restaurants across the United States. This is noteworthy for two reasons:

1. Shopper awareness of Chinese takeout packaging is very high. Fifty percent of our respondents rated it--which puts in almost the same "awareness league" as KFC Chicken's 65 percent awareness and McDonald Salads' 72 percent awareness.

2. Significantly more of those who rated Chinese takeout packaging gave it top ratings than those who rated everything from supermarket and/or KFC chicken to any of the big-three fast food chains' sandwiches.

Readers who are unfamiliar with Chinese and other Asian restaurant takeout packaging should visit a contemporary Asian restaurant and take a look at the packaging they are using for entrees. You'll probably see sturdy, leak-proof, and readily microwavable rounds with easy-snap-on and off lids. "Chinese takeout is especially handy when the plastic is sturdy and the packages are heatable in the microwave."

Happy Holidays! Mona Doyle
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Doyle, Mona
Publication:The Shopper Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Words:451
Previous Article:Packaging holiday problems.
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