There may be people out there who don't always find themselves wishing there were more hours in each day, but if so, I've been too busy to meet any of them.
Today's fast-paced lifestyle can make the traditionally simple task of sitting down to consume a meal next to impossible. To that end, consumer packaged goods manufacturers are continuously hard at work attempting to develop the next great packaging innovation, one that will help save consumers the precious commodity of time, as well as offer quality products. And, increasingly, many are becoming successful in this endeavor. Packaging has come a long way from the days of the aluminum TV dinner tray and the jagged edges of opened canned goods.
Mark Baum, executive vice president at the Washington-based Grocery Manufacturers of America, predicts packaging technology will only improve over time. "There is no question that some of the greatest innovations of the past few years have been in packaging, and that will continue into the future," he told SN.
Some of the new advances in packaging technology were previewed during a session on new product trends at the Food Marketing Institute's annual convention earlier this year. I listened in awe as Valerie Skala, vice president of analytic product management at Information Resources Inc., spoke of packages that actually aid in the cooking process, such as a package that crisps food as the product is microwaved.
It is this type of packaging innovation that will be key to tomorrow's shoppers. Portable and resealable packages have become a necessity, not simply a convenience. Skala's explanation of innovative concepts like "interrupt-able" snacking and items that can be eaten with one hand while the other is steering a car evoked images of the world I witness every day during my commute to and from the office.
In this week's Center Store section, we delve into some of the current packing trends, with a special emphasis on containers designed for the tiniest of hands as families prepare for the new school year. Just when mothers thought peanut butter and jelly were the easiest and fastest spreads to prepare on a sandwich, the squeezable tube is introduced for kids -- food retailers' future head of household shoppers -- to take with them to the school cafeteria. And pudding now comes in squeezable tubes. Designs for items such as aseptic juices and soup cans have undergone overhauls in recent years, with pop tops placing fear in the hearts of can opener salesmen everywhere.
"Cans are truly the convenience package of the future. They provide excellent barrier strength and durability to protect food integrity, and with new technologies are lightweight and easy to open," said Paul McCaig, vice president of marketing and business development for Morgan Foods, a leader in food processing and a major private-label supplier of formulated food products.
This all poses the question: What's next? How about packages that transport themselves to the consumer's location on voice command? Now that's innovative. Or entrees that can be programmed through your VCR/DVD to begin cooking? Talk about a TV dinner.