The future of food labels

Both food packaging and the labelling industry are driven by global population growth, economic expansion, and rising consumption levels.

In the emerging markets, rapid population growth remains the main driver of packaging demand. For example, in China, by 2020 the percentage of middle-class consumers will have increased by 400 million from the 2009 level.

“Middle-class consumers are buying packaged foods from supermarkets and increasingly from convenience stores. Brand owners are expected to gradually show more interest also towards lower-income consumers, so we’re looking at major growth potential here,” explains Pascal Oliveira, Director of Global Business Development in the food segment at UPM Raflatac.

In the western world, food packaging growth is powered by the changing demographic structure and new cooking and eating habits, notes Oliveira. The proportion of single-person households is rising, which is driving demand for smaller package sizes and overall growth in packaging and labelling.

Smart solutions with shelf appeal
“Another new trend is alternative packaging materials such as sugar cane or even grass paper, which are being tested for packaging organic fruits and vegetables. Re-closure remains an important feature, and self-adhesive labels offer good solutions for various packaging designs,” explains Oliveira.

Upcoming trends offer great opportunities for the label industry. In addition, consumers are looking for safety and health benefits from their food. There is increasing need for transparency and product information and as well for ‘free-of’ products.

“Consumers want to know what they buy and eat. This can be solved simply with transparent label design, booklet and so-called Multitac solutions. Smart labelling solutions such as RafMore can deliver comprehensive information about ingredients, health benefits or product origin, for instance,” Oliveira describes.

Digital gets personal
The growth of e-commerce in particular is expected to increase home deliveries of food in developed markets. This trend is expected to drive 3.5-4 per cent growth in the food label market.

“Retailers have to use a packaging solution that can survive the complex supply chain, fulfil food safety requirements as well as facilitate branding. In any case, there will be more packaging and logistic labelling within the food segment,” Oliveira predicts.

Intelligent labels are very useful for logistical purposes, enabling food packages to be tracked and traced along the value chain. Unique codes and the right cloud-based software offer flexibility and interaction in line with the brand owner’s or retailer’s needs.

“With solutions such as our RafMore, consumers have access to extended information in the cloud though their mobile devices, which offers real benefits for retailers and brand owners in terms of consumer engagement, communications and authentication. They can improve the consumer experience and also access new information from their target groups, which is becoming really important, Oliveira adds

Sustainability in our DNA
Sustainable packaging has become a hot topic during the past few years. Legislators and the public are putting more pressure on producers to significantly reduce pollution and packaging waste, plastic in particular. For example, the EU has launched a new plastic strategy aiming for all plastic packaging to be recyclable by 2030.

“At UPM Raflatac we systematically execute lifecycle assessments of our components and product ranges. Furthermore, we are improving our products continuously and launching new products with an optimised footprint compared to traditional product versions.”

UPM Raflatac offers sustainable solutions like the RafCycle recycling service giving a second life to label waste. Another is the RAFNXT+ label paper range, a product that combines raw material efficiency, energy savings, and reduced water and waste throughout the product lifecycle. UPM’s ‘Forest Positive’ lifecycle approach also promotes carbon absorption and biodiversity.

Source: UPM Raflatac

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