Because We’re Living in a Materials World

Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery talks packaging trends with Timothy Bohrer, CPP, president of Pac Advantage Consulting LLC, Chicago.

SF&WB: What factors are driving today’s food packaging trends?

Timothy Bohrer: Increased competition, an uncertain global economy and growing sustainability demands are driving packaging developments across all categories, including snack and bakery. These trends have companies working harder to differentiate themselves when it comes to how consumers perceive their product quality, convenience and value. The familiar equation of ‘cheaper, better, faster – choose any two,’ no longer creates success. Today, consumers and retailers demand all three product attributes.”


SF&WB: You follow numerous product sectors. What have you observed in snack and bakery food packaging?

Bohrer: Specifically, we see snack and bakery food manufacturers – and their suppliers – upgrading graphics. It’s clear that they’re striving to simplify printing press changeovers, increase productivity and reduce costs. We see increased use of sophisticated seven- and eight-color systems to eliminate spot colors. This creates new benefits for both package converters and users.


SF&WB: What’s happening in food packaging graphics?

Bohrer: Packages need high-impact graphics to convey brand confidence and “newness” in the fraction of a second while consumers scan store shelves. PACK EXPO Las Vegas had an interesting exhibit sponsored by Clemson University’s Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics. The institute is using state-of-the-art “eye-tracking” technology to study the reaction of real consumers to real package designs – in a realistic mini-mart setting. Later, suppliers and manufacturers will be able to leverage results from these studies and create even more “bang” for a company’s graphic design buck.


SF&WB: How are manufacturers and suppliers making packages more convenient?

Bohrer: Consumer convenience and package reliability improvements dominate package upgrades. You see re-closeable stand-up pouches continuing to make inroads and now they’re evolving to more “dump-fill” product formats.

New technologies include:

  • Toray’s TreaTear™ directional-tear PP sealant films. Here, Toray is trying to address and consumer complaints about tear notches that don’t provide predictable results
  • Ampac’s E-Z Zip® pull-tab opening feature retains the package header and its messaging after opening. It also streamlines [in-plant] filling by not exposing zipper elements to product until the package is opened
  • EASY-LOCK® micro-hook closure system. France’s Aplix is addressing the problem of zipper misalignment on reclose. Known for its hook-and-loop closure systems, Aplix has introduced and patented this product, which closes securely without requiring perfect alignment. 
  • Zip-Pak’s Zip360™ system, which applies zipper reclosure to the full width of a gusseted pouch or bag. This greatly increases the consumer’s access to the product as well as his or dispensing options.
  • a joint venture between T.H.E.M. and Zip-Pak. These two suppliers have developed a new product that combines the rigidity and barrier of a laminated folding carton – with the reclose of zipper technology in the Zipbox® package. Liner elimination offers the potential to deliver simple, cost effective opening and reclosure. 

SF&WB: How is sustainability impacting package material development?

Bohrer: Package materials and formats are always competing and these advances drive cost savings and convenience improvements for manufacturers. Now, sustainability represents a new battleground.
The packaging industry always has delivered source reduction (to package users) as technology progressed. Today, however, this topic has become more sophisticated in regard to how you measure the parameters of sustainability. It’s become a much more complex playing field for those who specify packaging.

Now we’re talking about everything from simple calculations of weight reduction and related transportation energy savings – all the way to comprehensive lifecycle analyses. The entire packaging value chain is experimenting at the moment to identify the most practical and economically viable packaging solutions to reduce environmental impact.


SF&WB: How are these trends playing out in snacks and bakery foods?

Bohrer: Renewably sourced raw materials are receiving increased attention, with the North American market placing greater emphasis on bio-derived vs. biodegradable attributes. Officials are still questioning the conversion of traditional food producing acreage to bio-energy or biochemical end uses. Meanwhile, researchers also are looking at ways to increase the efficiency of bio-sources from perennial plants on marginal lands.

Cellulose film – one of the earliest clear films used to package bakery and snack foods – has reemerged as a highly desirable component in laminations, with multiple metallized and barrier coated grades available. Several U.S. suppliers now offer biaxially oriented corn-based PLA and are incorporating into snack packaging. You can see that the stakes are high; Frito-Lay is involved in lawsuits in both the United Kingdom and the United States in regard to ownership of two patents covering biodegradable bag materials.

These trends should continue into and through 2012 because there is much more room to grow in performance improvements. You’ll see suppliers and manufacturers applying this knowledge to the next generation of sustainable packages.

About Timothy Bohrer
A 30-year-plus packaging industry veteran, Bohrer works with both flexible and rigid structures in plastic, paper and composite packaging and the materials that form the foundation of these package types.

Bohrer has also led R&D efforts at American Can, James River, Fort James and Ivex Packaging.

SF&WB readers can reach Bohrer by visiting, calling (773) 268-2232 or emailing him at

What do consumers want? It doesn’t take special glasses to see these trend lines. With 3D theater movies, 3D televisions, 3G and 4G smartphones, it’s clear consumers want added dimensions and extra features. They want to more closely connect with a momentary diversion, to create more of a custom experience. They also want to feel better about how their purchase impacts the environment.

Experts agree that new products and packaging carry those themes right into the snack and bakery food categories.

“Increased competition, an uncertain global economy and growing sustainability demands are driving packaging developments across all categories, including snack foods and bakery,” says Timothy Bohrer, CPP, a packaging materials expert and owner of Pac Advantage Consulting LLC, Chicago. “These trends have companies working harder to differentiate themselves when it comes to how consumers perceive their product quality, convenience and value. The familiar equation of ‘cheaper, better, faster—choose any two,’ no longer creates success. Today, consumers and retailers demand all three product attributes.”
A 25-year industry observer, Rick Lingle is Editor-in-Chief of BNP Media’s Food & Beverage Packaging magazine.

“Convenience, paired with product differentiation, is a potent combination,” says Lingle. “We see continued snack and bakery interest in convenience. This includes zipper resealability or easy-open techniques such as full, top-of-pack peel and reseal features for cookies. Meanwhile, every company is chasing sustainability, often as one component within a larger Corporate Social Responsibility initiative.”

Form and function
Architects used to say, that “forms follows function.” Although that phrase may be lost to the past, packaging engineers are keeping it alive in new products as different as soup to nuts—or, perhaps, biscotti to nuts.

What are consumers’ “functional” food needs? On some levels, it’s clear they’re looking for snacks that do it all: Either satisfy individual needs or create a “sharing” experience for two or more.

Among those tapping the latter trend are American Pop Corn Co., Sioux City, Iowa, and ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb. Last year saw American Pop Corn roll out a Jolly Time microwave bag that, with the pull of a string, turns into an “Insta-Bowl” for sharing. Similarly, ConAgra launched its own Pop Up Bowl, which includes a transparent lid so that consumers can watch their popcorn pop.

Not everyone shares the same tastes? That’s okay, too. ConAgra came back last September with Orville Redenbacher’s Flavors, individual 3.24-oz. popcorn bags, each with a separate seasoning packet. Flavors seasonings include White Cheddar, Extra Cheese or Sea Salt and Vinegar.

Jesse Spungin is ConAgra’s vice president and general manager for the Orville Redenbacher’s brand.

“We’ve found consumers more than ever want to control the flavor of their food, and the flavor packet in Orville Redenbacher’s Flavors allows popcorn lovers to sprinkle on the preferred amount of seasoning to control the flavor intensity.”

Of course ConAgra isn’t the only one thinking small (packaging) to creatively deliver big flavor. Still more interesting new offerings include PB2, a powdered snack in 0.85-oz. glossy, multi-colored packets. Bell Plantation Inc., Tifton, Ga., tells consumers they simply need to add water and stir to make a quick snack using PB2 peanut butter or PB2 peanut butter with chocolate.

Others use packaging to facilitate eating experiences. One of those is Nonni’s Foods LLC, Tulsa, Okla. In conjunction with its summertime launch of Biscotti Bites, Nonni’s says it wanted complementary packaging to make its bite-size snack less messy and easy for travel. Officials say they developed a flexible, durable new bag that bends and folds effortlessly.

“In order for us to better service our consumers, we wanted to find out what we could do better to enhance their experience with our product,” says marketing director Matt Duffy. “Biscotti Bites are an easy solution for consumers who want to snack on gourmet cookies on-the-go; it communicates a less ‘fancy’ and more ‘every-day’ biscotti. The easy- to-use bag makes biscotti snacking effortless and convenient; just open and wrap back up for another biscotti break.”

Also targeting new usage occasions is John B. Sanfilippo & Son, Inc., the Elgin, Ill., marketer of Fisher nuts.

“Consumer research led us to reinvent the baking nut category and create the Fisher Freshness Seal Bag,” says Howard Brandeisky, vice president of John B. Sanfilippo’s global marketing, innovation and customer solutions. “After opening, this new bag offers a press-to-seal closure that locks in the flavor and crunch of the nuts. The upright design also makes it easier to scoop right out of the bag, into the mixing bowl and store after use.”

Many food processors hope their packaging literally clicks with consumers in other ways. One of those companies is Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, Minong, Wis. When the company recast its MATADOR beef jerky communications and packaging design last fall, it used the opportunity to take packaging just a little bit further to reach MATADOR’s millennial target consumer.

“As part of MATADOR’s new, unique and vibrant package design, the brand has incorporated a QR (Quick Response) code to bring the latest news and happenings from MATADOR directly to its fans,” says Mark Catlin, director of marketing for the brand. “When scanned with a smart phone, the two-dimensional barcode will connect fans directly to MATADOR’s Facebook page, and provide elements like event sponsorship videos and product special offers. The QR code will also be used across many of MATADOR’s marketing and sales elements, such as in-store point-of-purchase, on MATADOR mobile marketing trucks, integrated into trade show activations and for field training.”


Because Green is Good
With the introduction of Freschetta Simply…Inspired Pizza, The Schwan Food Co., Marshall, Minn., took a fresh look at the product packaging. Officials say that each of the eight new varieties of Freschetta Simply…Inspired pizzas is wrapped in new Fresch-Taste Seal packaging to lock in the flavor while using 30% less packaging by weight than a traditional pizza carton.

By removing the outer paperboard carton, Schwan estimates that Freschetta Simply…Inspired pizza saves 1,378 tons of paperboard, which adds up to 23,433 trees saved each year. This new package design also sets Freschetta Simply…Inspired pizzas apart within the retailer’s frozen pizza section.







And the Award Goes To …

Snack foods and bakery products earned top honors in 2011 competitions hosted by the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) and the Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC).

January_specialReport_slide7Flexible Packaging Achievement Awards: Weaver Popcorn Co., Inc., Van Buren, Ind., earned a silver award for environmental and sustainability achievement for a new Trail’s End caramel corn bag developed by Danafilms Inc. and Plastic Packaging Technologies Inc. FPA credited Weaver and its suppliers for a “dramatic” packaging conversion from historical rigid tins and pails. Officials said the in-line Quad Seal Bag provides improved shelf presence, a three-ply barrier film combination and Inno-Lok zipper. Say FPA contest judges: “This package provides a compelling case study for marketers to convert to flexible packaging for an improved package at a lower cost, while reducing disposable waste by 80 to 85 percent.”

National Paperboard Packaging Competition: ConAgra Foods’ Slim Jim 16-Count Snack Sticks package (provided by Graphic Packaging) earned an “Eco” Excellence Award. PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats unit earned a Gold award (general category) for new Quaker Life Soft Baked Bars (Graphic Packaging).

January_specialReport_sidethumb2Where there’s smoke …
There’s fire. Want to know who’s hot in private-label new products and packaging? Snack and bakery products earned as many as eight awards in the Private Label Manufacturers Association’s (PLMA) 2011 annual “Salute to Excellence” new product competition. PLMA showcased winners during the PLMA show last November in Chicago. Snack and bakery product honorees included Delhaize America (parent to Hannaford Bros. Markets, Food Lion and others) for its Home360 Baby Strawberry-Apple Little Puffs. Visit to see all “Salute to Excellence” winners.