Gourmet Foods Need Visual Sizzle

The packaging recipe for high-end foods and beverages pairs visual sizzle with product protection.

By Kate Bertrand, Packaging Editor

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In fact, Napa Valley Toffee has experienced a surge of interest from retailers since the package redesign — and the company has been able to raise its prices.

“If it weren’t for the packaging, we wouldn’t be where we are,” Beatty adds. “Our product is good, but people aren’t going to come to your product if they don’t like the package. That package has definitely been the catapult for our success.”

The distribution challenge

If a food processor’s distribution or channel strategy changes, its packaging also may need to be updated. That’s especially true for gourmet products that are high in fat and/or lack preservatives.

For products with these characteristics, a package that provides acceptable shelf life for local distribution may not be good enough for national distribution. Longer distances to market equate to lost shelf life and the possibility of product spoiling on the way to its destination or soon afterwards.

“In the gourmet food industry, the products typically have completely natural ingredients and lots of fat, which is what makes them taste so good,” says Peter Donnelly, market applications specialist at Multisorb Technologies (www.multisorb.com), Buffalo, N.Y.

But, he adds, “It also adds some interesting and complex dynamics to moving that product through a distribution network and getting it to a consumer in any kind of shape. Because there are so few preservatives and stabilizers, these products tend to be subject to degrading very quickly. The degradation often takes the form of lipid oxidation.”

Gourmet foods packaging: Wally's

Currently, products from Wally's Food Co. are packaged in a 20-oz., transparent polypropylene stand-up pouch because they are only distributed locally. In order to expand beyond San Francisco, the packaging will have to change to provide a one-week shelf life.

To stave off degradation, the first line of defense is packaging with a good barrier to oxygen, such as bottles, jars and tins. But even with these containers, oxygen can creep in at seams, seals or the closure interface.

For dry products, such as nuts, the food processor can address that oxidation threat by adding a sachet of oxygen absorber to the container. Multisorb claims its FreshPax packets and strips absorb oxygen inside sealed packaging to less than 0.01 percent. Consequently, shelf life can often be more than tripled.

Wally’s Food Co. (www.wallysfoodco.com), San Francisco, faces a related shelf-life challenge as it expands into the retail channel. Currently, the company’s refrigerated salads, soups, dinners and other products are only available by delivery, and only in the San Francisco area.

The products are packaged in a 20-oz., transparent polypropylene stand-up pouch. Shelf life was not a high priority in the creation of this package, because “typically our customers order the product, we deliver it, and they eat it within two days,” says Wally Cheng, the company’s founder.

However, for his retail packaging, Cheng wants to achieve shelf life of at least a week. Thus, he is considering high oxygen-barrier films, vacuum packaging and/or changing the pH level in his recipes.

Cheng also would like the retail package to showcase his vibrantly colored products, which the current package does so well. He hopes to obtain retail distribution in the San Francisco area within the next several months.

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