Minimal matters

Departments - Edible Insights

Meet your conscious consumer halfway by providing the eco-friendly packaging they are looking for.

February 24, 2020

PHOTO © artem_goncharoy | Adobe stock

Even though I help my clients with packaging design concepts and copywriting, I’ll admit I have a love/hate relationship with packaging in general. The saleswoman and communicator in me loves well-designed and executed packaging that tells a good story and delivers the brand and benefits to the consumer. However, the concerned citizen of Earth in me is seriously averse to more plastic waste. While we can’t avoid all packaging when it comes to food and produce, 2020 looks to be the year none of us can sidestep the growing consumer demand for more sustainable packaging.

I’m a big coffee drinker, but I’m the only coffee drinker in my office these days. So those traditional pots of coffee (and coffee beans and water) were going to waste; and the tab my assistant was running up at Starbucks for just me was getting ridiculous. I didn’t want to use a single-serve brew machine that used plastic pods because I refuse to throw them in the landfill. So, I went with a new Nespresso machine this year specifically because it uses aluminum pods that are sent back to the company for recycling. I realize it’s still not a perfect system, but my purchasing decision came down entirely to the packaging and waste-reduction potential.

Curb appeal in packaging is certainly important when it comes to differentiating and selling your brand and products. While looks are important, consumer priorities are evolving. After some of the largest climate protests in 2019 that most of us have ever seen, there is no denying that consumers increasingly expect packaging to be environmentally friendly. As younger and more environmentally conscious consumers populate the marketplace, they will bring with them the expectation that your produce packaging does not add to the waste problem or hurt wildlife and ecosystems.

Recyclable, biodegradable and zero-waste packaging options are where many manufacturers are heading in 2020. What exactly is “zero-waste” packaging? Essentially, it’s a system in which all of the materials can be reused or recycled so there is no leftover waste product. Some are going as far as creating edible packaging for their food products.

PHOTO © seremin | istock

One company that is taking a very fresh approach to a zero-waste packaging system is Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, Oregon. They aren’t just using sustainable packaging; they are growing it. Owyhee plans to grow 500 acres of hemp and then convert the hemp fiber to compostable onion bags this year. The bags will be called Farmed FRESH, an acronym that stands for Farmed Regenerative Environmentally Sourced Hemp. The company plans to extract CBD oil as a byproduct from the industrial hemp. Not only is this an ingenious way to create and use sustainable packaging, it also creates a fantastic marketing story to help Owyhee stand out against other brands.

When it comes down to the visual curb appeal of your packaging, in today’s market, more isn’t always better. Minimalism in packaging design is “in’’ this year. Complicated or bulky packaging tends to come across as wasteful. But it’s not only minimal materials (in line with sustainability), but also minimalist design style of the branding and packaging that’s popular. Clean, high-contrast, easy-to-read designs are growing in popularity. A minimal design style can nicely complement no-waste or biodegradable materials in your packaging.

Realize that more and more of your customers are of the Instagram generation. They are used to judging products and packaging instantly based on aesthetics and how they appear in a display. Picture-perfect, if you will. Keep packaging copywriting simple and transparent when it comes to all ingredients and how your produce is grown. This approach not only makes your packaging more visually attractive but can also help reinforce the message sent by sustainably grown produce and zero-waste packaging.

Recyclable, biodegradable and zero-waste packaging options are where many manufacturers are heading in 2020.

While clean and simple is in, that doesn’t mean skipping out on the tech altogether. Smart labels that are printed with QR codes or embedded with NFC chips are also on the rise. These can be good ways to keep your packaging design and information clear and simple. They also guide customers to scan the label with their smartphones for more detailed information about your business, produce, recipes and more. Ultimately, your packaging should drive your customers to your website and social media channels to get them engaged with your brand and content.

I have to say, I love these packaging trends. Combining sustainability with clean, minimal aesthetics and a dash of technology feels like the right direction. For consumers such as myself — who will now pass on produce and products with too much unnecessary packaging and jargon — minimal matters.

The author (CPH) owns Halleck Horticultural, LLC, through which she provides horticultural consulting, business and marketing strategy, product development and branding, and content creation for green industry