Health foods set the standard for Green packaging

The next generation of health foods could set the standard for environmentally friendly packaging, a new report finds.

According to the report Ten Trends to Watch in Packaged Goods in 2008, released by Datamonitor Productscan Online, many products that boast innovative packaging are geared towards the health-conscious.

It explains that organic food and beverages for children are a growing market. New products such as Honest Tea are aggressively targeting this sector, boasting low-sugar content and half the calories of typical children’s drinks.

Probiotics are also creeping into other dairy products besides yoghurt. In 2007, Kraft went probiotic with its LiveActive cheese, and there are indications that 2008 will see the first probiotic chocolate bar.

As sustainability has had unprecedented coverage this year, manufacturers of packaged goods are trying to reflect the concerns of the consumer, finding new ways to be Green. For example, Procter & Gamble’s Pur Flavor Options enables consumers to flavour water as it comes out of the tap, filtering it through a flavoured tap mount. This avoids the waste associated with bottled water and fruit drinks.

However, many believe that even if consumers do buy organic food they may not care about the packaging. Catherine Conway, the founder of Unpackaged, a London grocery shop where customers fill their own containers, says, ‘It is ridiculous and bordering on hypocritical that health foods are on the rise, but the packaging is not reflective of eco-friendly beliefs.’

So as each product enters the marketing phase is the issue of being environmentally aware at the forefront of the packaging designer’s mind?

‘It is our moral obligation not to over-package products,’ says Adrian Whitefoord, director of Pemberton & Whitefoord, which recently produced biodegradable packaging for Starbucks. He believes that the industry is being proactive.

‘Manufacturers are concerned and are doing more to prevent waste ending up on landfill sites,’ he adds.

Tesco recently entered the US retail market with its Fresh & Easy concept, and it is hoping to reinvent the convenience store as a destination for fresh food. Whitefoord claims that US supermarkets are aware that products are over-packaged, since they often strip and recycle packaging at the check-outs.

Tesco has enlisted P&W to minimise its packaging in response to this trend. ‘It is becoming more and more of an issue for clients to simplify their products, and as designers we have to take this into consideration,’ says Whitefoord.

Jonathan Ford, creative partner at Pearlfisher, which recently designed packaging for eco-friendly skincare range Nude, explains that a key trend in 2008 will be simplification. ‘Packaging can still be beautiful and it can become even more iconic when it is simple,’ he says.

Last week, Pearlfisher declared that its packaging was a ‘load of rubbish’, launching a new exhibition called Destination Landfill. During the show, three destructive machines crushed Pearlfisher’s back catalogue of packaging prototypes. Ford explains, ‘As designers we are embracing environmental issues because it makes business brand sense. Not only are we thinking of the product visually, but also the whole lifecycle of the product and where its final resting place will be.’

Health foods make the most of their eco-friendly and ethical characteristics – now the packaging is beginning to reflect those sustainable values.

Ten Trends to Watch in Packaged Goods

• Probiotics are hitting the mainstream venturing into other dairy products

• Organic food and beverages for children are a growing trend

• Fresh food products using steam-cooking methods are up-and-coming

• Superfruits such as the yumberry will go mainstream as larger companies get into the game

• An influx of African produce will hit the shelves

• There is a growing market for sleep aids and stress-relieving products such as Nakazawa Milk in Japan

• Reduced-fat foods that still give a ‘hearty crunch’ by Kellogg’s and McCain

• Sales of spicy and bolder-flavoured foods are on the rise

• Caffeine appearing more in other products, like Swiss Pick-Me-Up hot cocoa mix

• Being Green – reusable bottles and water-filter alternatives

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