Minimal packaging fares well in rough economy
Private label products save consumers nearly 30%
U.S. demand for biodegradable plastic to reach 720 million pounds in 2012
HACCP positioned as solution to prevent food safety issues

Minimal packaging fares well in rough economy

Despite disconnect between what consumers say and do, streamlined packaging is a solid strategy.

According to a study jointly commissioned by Green Seal and EnviroMedia Social Marketing, 60% of consumers surveyed look for minimally packaged goods on store shelves. While downsized packaging seems to have caught on with consumers, other numbers suggest that other “green” strategies have yet to grow: 87% of respondents say they recycle, but the Environmental Protection Agency reports that 33% of waste is diverted from landfills.

The telephone survey found that four out of five respondents (82%) are still buying green products and services-which sometimes cost more-even in the wake of today’s recession. At that, 19% of those surveyed said they are buying more green products now than before the economic downturn.

The study also indicated that more consumer education on “green claims” is warranted: Nearly one third of respondents said they don’t know how to tell if green product claims are true while one in 10 consumers blindly trusts green product claims.

“There’s a real opportunity for authentic green marketing, despite the tough economy,” says Valerie Davis, EnviroMedia principal and chief executive officer. “This research proves people want to do what’s best for the environment, but it needs to be easy and accessible. Companies should be clear about the environmental benefits of their products and services and make sure what they claim in the TV ad is backed up consistently on product packaging and on the website.”

Private label products save consumers nearly 30%

Price differentials vary from category to category, but the cost advantages are clear.

Consumer research by the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) shows that shoppers can save about 30% off their grocery bill by purchasing store brand products on their weekly trips to the supermarket. On a typical trip to a supermarket to buy 43 basic grocery and household items, the PLMA price comparison research showed that consumers saved an average of $46.39 when compared to purchases of national brands in the same categories. The products represented in the typical shopping list included foodstuffs (cereal, soda, pasta, orange juice and cookies), personal care products (facial and bathroom tissue, cold and flu medications and aspirin) and dog food.

Of the 43 frequently purchased products represented, the largest price differentials by percentage were found in aspirin, sinus spray, soda, saltine crackers and body lotion. The price differential in soda, aspirin, sinus spray and lotion translated to consumer savings between 50% and 60%, while items such as cereal and ice cream represented savings of more than 30%. Store brand frozen pizza cost the average shopper about 23% and private-label dog food saved shoppers 25% over competing brands. All told, 35 of the 43 items that made PLMA’s test cart saved consumers more than 20% off their grocery bills and nearly a quarter of the products saved shoppers over 40%.

PLMA’s survey was conducted weekly for eight weeks between Jan. 2 and Feb. 22, 2009, in a typical suburban supermarket in the northeast U.S. The industry association acknowledges that prices may vary from market to market, but the consumer savings will follow the same pattern nationwide.

U.S. demand for biodegradable plastic to reach 720 million pounds in 2012

Projected growth is fueled by escalating crude prices and declines in biodegradable prices.

Demand for biodegradable plastic in the U.S. is projected to rise 16.8% annually to 720 million pounds, or $845 million in 2012, according a new study from industry research firm Freedonia Group. In 2007, biodegradable plastic represented less than one-half of 1% of thermoplastic resin demand, but the report indicates that the demand will blossom as resin blends improve and opportunities for new and developing applications, including those in flexible films, increase.

The Freedonia Group report indicates that packaging, which accounted for nearly 75% of all biodegradable plastic use in 2007, will remain a robust market for biodegradable resins: According to forecasts, packaging presents the largest gains through 2012 due to growth in areas such as foodservice products and films.

Demand for polylactic acid (PLA) will see some of the largest gains-as much as 20% annual growth-as both the number of factories manufacturing the corn-based resin increase and resin improvements are implemented. In 2007, PLA accounted for 91 million pounds of biodegradable demand, a number that is expected to more than double to 225 million pounds in 2012.

HACCP positioned as solution to prevent food safety issues

Flexible packaging manufacturers get involved to promote a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points program.
A recent Harris Interactive survey commissioned by the American Society for Quality (ASQ) finds a majority of Americans feel the food industry doesn’t do enough to ensure a safe food supply. Less than half (48%) trust the government’s ability to ensure the safety of food products.

Among the findings:
• 61% of U.S. adults feel the U.S. food recall process is only fair or poor.
• 73% of adults say they are as equally concerned about food safety as the war on terror.
• 82% of adults believe that the food industry should be required to follow international standards on food safety.
• 93% of adults say food manufacturers, growers or suppliers should be held legally responsible when individuals are fatally sickened by tainted food.

When an incident occurs, it affects the whole food industry. Steven Wilson, a member of ASQ’s board of directors and ASQ food safety expert, says “The cost of a recall does not just concern lost revenue and charges for the recall but also in loss of respect for the brand or the product. In this way all members of the food chain are hurt by the actions of bad players.”

While food safety problems seem to be well known, cost-effective solutions are still elusive. Representatives from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say improving the manufacturing process is key to preventing the problem, perhaps by instituting a program similar to Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP).

The Food Safety Alliance for Packaging (FSAP)-a new coalition of consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies, packaging suppliers and third-party training and standards organizations-also promotes HACCP for packaging operations.

Among the suppliers involved are two flexible packaging leaders: Alcan Packaging and Sonoco.

At Sonoco, Jeff Schuetz, staff vice president, Global Technology, Consumer Packaging, explains the benefits of involvement. "Packaging suppliers get to interact with major CPGs at a product safety level and also have input into the HACCP procedures that are being developed for food packaging," Schuetz says.

FSAP’s primary target is to eliminate mislabeling wherever possible. Suppliers of labels and direct-print packaging, such as films and cartons, can use vision systems to verify the accuracy of text on a package, for example. The idea is to work together to eliminate misprints and mix-ups that could result in missing allergen declarations and inaccurate ingredient listings.

ASQ’s Wilson says, “A majority of recalls can be prevented with due diligence by all parties, including following their implemented control systems and communicating with the other segments of the food chain.” Participation in FSAP could be a step in the right direction.

Chemical Market Associates Inc.
DeWitt & Co. Inc.
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