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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As the foodie movement continues to grow, gourmet and luxury consumables are gaining a strong foothold in the consumer packaged goods arena. And that’s creating some packaging challenges.

Packaging for these items must convey the product’s quality, support premium pricing and distinguish the product from competitive gourmet offerings. At the same time, the package must protect the product’s integrity and shelf life, often without the support of preservatives in the product formulation. And, increasingly, the product and packaging also need to be convenient.

For packaging that is elegant looking but also able to protect delicate flavors and defend against oxidation, glass or metal containers are often the ideal choice. But if the product is not highly sensitive to degradation, a combination paperboard/film package may provide the optimal mixture of beauty, barrier and cost.

Glass conveys class

Many food processors, “especially in the gourmet food or beverage area, feel glass connotes the quality image they are looking for,” says Joe Cattaneo, president of the Glass Packaging Institute (www.gpi.org), Alexandria, Va. “They choose glass because it communicates that high-touch, premium-quality feel that goes hand in hand with their product. They also can gain a premium price on certain items.”

At the functional level, glass does not interact chemically with products, so purity is assured. Glass also protects product taste by providing a barrier to oxygen and moisture. It is compatible with hot filling, as well, which is important to food processors such as Steel’s Gourmet Foods (www.steelsgourmet.com), Bridgeport, Pa.

Steel’s processes and packages all-natural fruit spreads, dessert toppings, condiments, syrups, pie fillings and salad dressings using glass exclusively. For products that require hot filling, the company heats to roughly 185°F. The filled, lidded jars pull a vacuum seal as they cool.

“If you hot-pack in glass, that’s no problem. You get a good vacuum seal with available lids. But if you pack in plastic, that pull will cause a dimple, even with fairly strong PET (polyethylene terephthalate)," says Betty Jo Steel, president of Steel’s. “We tried to go to plastic in half-gallons and had trouble with that happening. And if you don’t have your vacuum seal, oxygen can get in and cause spoilage.”

Glass also offers aesthetic opportunities, which gourmet and luxury product marketers relish. “The marvelous artistry potential with glass presents all sorts of possibilities,” says Tom Marshall, president of Specialty Food America Inc. (www.specialtyfoodamerica.com), Hopkinsville, Ky.

Packaging for gourmet items: Bling H2O
Would you pay $35 for bottled water? Bling H2O’s bottle is decorated with 60 Swarovski crystals.

Bling H2O provides an example of how far the artistry can go. Positioned as the first super-luxury bottled water, Bling H2O is filled into frosted glass bottles that have been hand-decorated with Swarovski crystals.

Saint-Gobain Containers and Vitro Packaging supply the glass bottles. The brand is a product of Bling Beverages LLC (www.blingh2o.com), Beverly Hills, Calif., and the product’s primary distribution channel is on-premise venues such as clubs and bars.

Bling H2O is available in 750- and 375-ml bottles, and each size is decorated with 60 crystals. Packaging costs are high, but the product’s pricing offsets the expense. The suggested retail price for the large bottle is $35, and for the small bottle, $20. In the marketplace, Bling H2O often sells for substantially more.

“We’re selling a premium product, and that demands a premium price tag,” says Kevin Boyd, founder of Bling Beverages. “We have premium water in the bottle, and that definitely does reflect in the packaging. The style and shape of the bottle are simple and elegant. The frosted glass bottle and the accent with the crystals, as well our brand name, encapsulate pop culture in a bottle.”

On-the-go gourmet

Metal packaging is another option for gourmet food processors. Metal offers an attractive mixture of product protection and decorative potential — and in some cases convenience, as well.

Although the combination of convenience and a gourmet sensibility may seem at odds, demand is quickly growing for gourmet-quality foods that offer portability, ease of preparation and other conveniences.

According to “The U.S. Market for Gourmet Foods and Beverages,” a report published by Packaged Facts (www.packagedfacts.com), New York, more than 18 percent of adults try to eat gourmet food whenever they can. Doing so in the context of time-constrained, on-the-go lifestyles forces the issue of convenience. Even the French, with their passion for cuisine, are getting on board with convenient gourmet foods.

Packaging for gourmet items: William Saurin salads

High-end French processor William Saurin chose essentially a can that combined a gourmet look with convenience.

For example, William Saurin (www.williamsaurin.net), Lagny-sur-Marne, France, chose a package that doubles as a serving dish to launch its Salades Gourmandes gourmet meat salads. The container is a bowl-shaped steel can with an easy-to-open peelable lid; consumers may eat the meat salad directly from the single-serve bowl.

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