Andrew Streeter, director of packaging management firm CPS International, said brand owners in the bread category, alongside packaging and equipment suppliers, had to be more creative.
“There really is a need to shake up the market because bread packaging is very protection-driven which is essential, and very cost sensitive, but it doesn’t really go beyond that,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“If the bread is organic, you might get biodegradable film but you’re not getting easy-open, re-closable functions, a sense of freshness or promoting of brand values in a way other fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG) would use packaging.”
Packaging valves, for example, which were widely used in coffee, could be used in bread to release aroma when squeezed, he said, or certain packaging materials selected to enable consumers to really ‘feel’ the bread – the crust, firmness and softness in the center.
“Bread makers need to go back and think about the role of packaging and how it is more than ‘contain and protect’. And they need to move on, because they need to put value back into the bread and the way to add value or the vehicle to do that is the packaging,” he said.
Potential to disrupt the market
Some bread companies in Japan had developed re-sealable, easy-open plastic pouches for sliced bread, Streeter said, but innovative examples like that were minimal in the global marketplace.
He said there was huge scope to drive greater interest in bread through packaging innovations. “It doesn’t mean making it more glamorous or making niche products, it means packaging to capture the real values of bread and bring those to the fore.”
The key focus, he said, should be on perceived and real freshness. “What you must remember with bread is that freshness, perceived or real, is critical and bread packaging has to capture those emotional and real cues…Bread packaging has a very limited role compared to other products – it’s not engaging the consumer or bringing out these strong values.”
Cost woes and consumer needs
However, Streeter acknowledged that like much of the FMCG sector, bread makers faced the major barrier of cost.
“You have to remember we’re living in a world where we have cost-reduced packaging because of economic difficulties. We’re very much in that culture – it’s only the last two years we’ve swung out of that into more value-added…That’s the trap that we’re in and therefore we need to add real values and perceived values going forward to get back the volumes. Packaging is the device to do that,” he said.
Bread must be “bold and courageous” to drive change in packaging, he said, and start with the consumer and their needs.
“This is not just about suppliers, but I wonder whether the brand owners need to take the lead, involve their own packaging people and be more inventive and match consumer needs through the packaging,” he said.