Our society has developed a taste for the local, and it’s led to a paradigm shift within the packaging industry.
Normally, the packaging industry works within a vertically integrated system. This means companies often have the capacity to produce its own packaging in-house. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense to outsource this process. However, the “farm-to-table” movement has shaken up the industry in ways that are both exciting and innovative.
If you shop at a farmer’s market, belong to a “community supported agriculture” organization, or are a member of a food co-op, you’ve seen these changes for a while. Only over the past few years has this movement made its way to supermarkets. Consumers are moving away from industrial processed food in favor of organic, locally raised, and locally harvested foods. The benefits of mass production and economies of scale are less desirable when you need packaging that “gets” the market. Every micro-market requires that its packaging reflect the region’s demographics as well as its staple foods.
That’s why contract packaging manufacturers are now sought out by the larger food companies. They are more nimble and able manufacturer multiple smaller runs of custom packaging films tailor-made for each market. Moreover, the quantity of packaging is not the only issue. The desires of the new customer requires these packages reflect their belief system. Those that shop local typically want packaging that is minimal, sustainable, and more portable.
The production of the packaging must have less of an impact on the environment. That means less packaging for the product, more sustainable raw materials used in the process, and less waste throughout the production and transportation processes. Packaging engineers are constantly looking for materials that are better for the environment – it makes the product more appealing. Moreover, creating flexible and “lay-flat” packaging also reduces environmental saves money now; more packages can be shipped using less fuel. Beyond the financial benefits, which are substantial, this process also reduces the amount of carbon emitted.
Holistic approaches advocated for by the farm-to-table movement have integrated amongst most facets of the food industry. You will continue to see this influence within the packaging industry in ways that provide benefits – financially, environmentally, and healthwise – to our entire population.