Packaging for Organic and Natural Foods

Contemporary package designs displace brown paper and granola-esque graphics.

By Kate Bertrand Connolly, Packaging Editor

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As organic and natural food products continue to multiply — and become more upscale — brand owners are using package graphics, structures and materials to differentiate their products both from conventional products and from other organic/natural offerings.

For TruBee Honey, which produces raw, unpasteurized honey, glass packaging with distinctive graphics communicates the brand's upscale personality as well as the honey's artisanal quality. The beekeepers at TruBee have been making honey for a decade and launched the TruBee brand two years ago.

"Our target market is people who want a pure, authentic product that is as close to nature as possible," explains Laura Kimball, "queen bee" at TruBee Honey (www.truebeehoney.com), Arrington, Tenn. "That's what we sell, and we felt like glass is the next best thing to just pouring the honey straight out of the hive."

The glass jars also protect the honey from package-related contamination. Product integrity is TruBee's top priority, "and glass seemed like the right choice to maintain that. People who want the high-end honey products don't want to buy in plastic," Kimball says. "I think there's a lot of suspicion about materials from plastic leaching into food."

She adds, "For us [a] glass jar speaks to a high-end customer and provides that food safety that people are looking for. There's no question about glass. People know that glass … doesn't leach into the food."

A secondary priority for TruBee was packaging that could be reused, so the company has started a rebate program in which consumers receive a credit toward their next TruBee purchase when they return an empty TruBee jar. TruBee sterilizes and refills the returned jars.

In addition to helping the company reduce the carbon footprint of its packaging, jar reuse and recyclability are very attractive to the company's target market. In a survey of natural and organic shoppers conducted by EcoFocus Worldwide LLC (www.ecofocusworldwide.com), St. Petersburg, Fla., 73 percent of respondents said they try to buy products in packaging that's refillable or reusable, and 78 percent try to buy products in recyclable packaging.

From a marketing perspective, TruBee's package graphics and clear product view display the product's quality and show that the brand has nothing to hide. The stencil-like logo uses a black rectangle to frame the TruBee Honey name. The letters in the name are not inked, so the honey's golden color is visible behind them.

"We wanted the idea of transparency to translate into the product on the shelf. We welcome people to come and look at our hives and see what beekeeping is all about, and we want the product to reflect … authenticity and the integrity," Kimball says. "You can hold it up to the light. You can see pollen floating around, the occasional piece of beeswax. You can see what you're about to get, and you can see how good it is."

Owens-Illinois Inc. (www.o-i.com), Perrysburg, Ohio, supplies TruBee's round, straight-sided 6- and 12-oz. screen-printed jars.

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