Wednesday, July 04, 2012: 11:04:28 AM

New Trend: Asia Food Packaging


Kumpol Nateethanasarn
Director of Sales
Klöckner Pentaplast/Asia

In the Asian consumer food market, there are some development trends which will change the food market in the near future. They are:
• The change of consumer behaviour towards ready-to-cook meals rather than cooking fresh food
• Safety of food packaging
• Shift in preference to sustainable packaging (green packaging)

As a marketer, change is always an opportunity and, as such, we can use a holistic approach1 to view these opportunities.

Ready-to-cook Meals
In European and US markets, multi-layer food packaging has been used to maintain freshness and taste, as well as extend shelf-life. It is common to find salad, meat and pizza in a high-barrier film to provide oxygen, moisture and flavour protection in refrigerated or frozen storage to ensure longer shelf-life.

In Asia, consumer behaviour is different. We can find freshly cooked food in every corner of the street at an economical price. However, with recent developments in the economy, urban lifestyles and smaller families, we have seen the development of ready-to-cook food in frozen packaging which can be ready to eat after it is microwaved for a few minutes in the microwave oven. Packaging material is mostly polypropylene (PP) which can be frozen and is microwavable. Frozen food can be stored longer by compromising taste and storage cost.

At the same time, ready-to-cook food normally packed in polystyrene or PET packaging for refrigerated storage (not frozen) is also growing. This includes fresh fruit which is prepared, ready-to-serve, and packed in polystyrene foam or a PET thermoformed tray. The advantage is better tasting food; however, the trade-off is that food not sold by the day’s end is wasted and the cost has been incurred for daily preparation. Moreover, there is a limited distribution system to ship products to stores far away, such as a store that is 400 km away. The product may expire before it reaches the store.

Multi-layer films with oxygen or moisture barrier combined with Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) production can help the food producer maximise this opportunity. Films can be laminated with EVOH/PE utilising PVC, PET, PP or PS. Barrier films, such as multi-layer films2 and MAP keep the food fresh and extend shelf-life longer than one day. Waste of unsold daily product can be reduced. The opportunity to improve the supply chain with central food preparation, better quality and lower cost can then be achieved at all stores. Moreover, barrier packaging also allows for product supply of distant stores – a new market opportunity. Cost savings and new market opportunities can offset the additional cost of material and investment in a MAP line.

Food Packaging Safety Versus Sustainability Concerns
In Asia, plastic food packaging market is very competitive. There are many packaging producers using significant portions of recycled plastic in their products which consumers may not be informed that the products they purchase may have a significant recycled content. The typical driver is lower cost rather than sustainability objectives. Food regulation in each Asian country is also different. For example, only a few counties enforce GMP, HACCP or traceability in food processing. Thus, consumers have become more concerned about the safety and hygiene of food and its packaging. This can be a risk for food producers if there is any incident that happens to their products as a result of packaging contaminants. The consequences can be enormous.

In the meantime, the green consumer is willing to spend more money if there is proof of environmentally friendly or sustainability in the purchased product. This is an opportunity for a food producer if he has a package to fit into this market segment.

New technology is capable of producing safe and hygienic food contact packaging. For example, mono- and multi-layer films2 that can also meet US FDA and EU regulations and directives for food contact in addition to certification of post-consumer recycled content in the film. It can be a good solution for this market segment. This is an opportunity for Asia food producers to use a food safe and hygienic material to eliminate the risk of packaging while strengthening the brand with a sustainability solution.

Note
1. ‘Sustainability Through Design Minimising Total System Waste’, April 4, 2012, Kumpol Nateethanasarn, Plasticbiz360. http://plasticbiz360.com/article/2/2012040420120404113111796298be08c/Sustainability-Through-Design-Minimising-Total-System-Waste.html#ftr2).
2.  Pentafood®, http://www.kpfilms.com/en/products.

 


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