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Considerations for the Perfect Shelf-Ready Food Packaging

As you consider shelf-ready food packaging design, identify consumer preferences, retail partner requirements, costs and benefits of various packaging options, and the impact packaging materials will have on food product freshness.

    7 minute read

If you are in the food industry, you know how important it is to package your products in a way that protects them and attracts customers. But how do you achieve that? The answer is shelf-ready food packaging.

Shelf-ready packaging, or retail-ready packaging, is designed to make it easier for retailers to stock and display your products on shelves and more convenient for customers to find and buy your products quickly. 

Let’s explore everything you need to know about shelf-ready packaging and how it can benefit your grab-and-go food products.

Shelf-Ready Packaging vs. Grab-and-Go Food Packaging

First off, shelf-ready packaging and grab-and-go packaging are not exactly the same, but they are often used interchangeably. Shelf-ready packaging is designed to be effortlessly stocked and displayed on retail shelves, while grab-and-go food packaging is more specifically constructed to be purchased and consumed by customers in a hurry.

However, both types of packaging share some common features, such as clear identification, straightforward openings, and attractive streamlined design. Therefore, some shelf-ready packaging can also be grab-and-go packaging, and vice versa.

Shelf-ready and grab-and-go food packaging can take different forms, such as folding cartons, clear plastic hinged deli, bakery & produce containers, microwave-safe containers, ready-to-heat meals, heat-and-serve bowls, compostable carry-out containers, trays with lids, and even pre-packaged frozen foods, depending on the size and type of your products.

You can also use them for snacks, beverages, and candies, as well. 

Benefits of Shelf-Ready Packaging for Grab-and-Go Food Products

Here are some of the main benefits of using shelf-ready packaging for your grab-and-go food products:

  • It saves retailers time and money, making it effortless for them to identify, transport, and stock your products in their stores. They don’t have to waste time and resources unpacking, sorting, or arranging your food products on shelves. They can simply open the box or folding carton and place it on the shelf. This also reduces the risk of damaging or losing your products during handling.
  • It increases the visibility and appeal of your products, enabling you to showcase them in an attractive and consistent way. You can use clear and eye-catching design elements with embossing/debossing, foil stamping, and specialty laminates and coatings to make your products stand out from the crowd. You can also use shelf-ready packaging to highlight the features and benefits of your products, such as freshness, quality, nutrition, or taste.
  • It enhances the customer experience and satisfaction, streamlining how customers find and buy your products. They don’t have to search through cluttered or messy shelves to locate them. Consumers can simply, well, grab and go. Shelf-ready packaging also makes it easy for customers to scan the label and return the product if they change their minds, improving the customer experience and overall satisfaction.
  • It reduces the environmental impact of your packaging, helping you lessen the amount of packaging materials you use for food products. You don’t have to use excessive wrapping or padding to protect your products during transportation or storage when you adopt right-size packaging principles. You can also use recyclable or biodegradable materials to minimize waste and pollution.

Considerations for Grab-and-Go Food Packaging

Before your company further considers food packaging design, identify consumer preferences, retail partner requirements, costs and benefits of various packaging options, and the impact packaging materials will have on your food products’ freshness

Needs & Preferences of Target Customers

Understand what kind of products, flavors, and portions your customers are looking for, and how they prefer to shop and consume them. For example, if your customers are busy professionals who value convenience and health, you might want to offer ready-to-heat meals that are nutritious and easy to microwave.

You want to choose packaging that matches the type and style of your products. If you sell fresh or chilled food products, for instance, you might want to use grab-and-go packaging that has ventilation holes or windows to keep your products fresh and visible. If you sell premium or gourmet food products, you might want to use packaging that has a glossy or matte finish to convey quality and elegance.

Packaging must appeal to your target market and location. If you sell healthy or organic food products, you might want to use packaging design that has green or natural colors and fonts to communicate health and sustainability. If you sell ethnic or exotic food products, you might want to use shelf-ready packaging that has vibrant or unique colors and patterns to attract attention and curiosity.

Requirements & Expectations of Retail Partners

Comply with the standards and specifications of the retailers that you want to sell your products to, and also meet their expectations for quality, safety, and sustainability. For example, if your retail partners are eco-conscious stores that promote recycling and composting, you might want to use packaging materials that are biodegradable or recyclable, or paper products sourced from responsibly managed forests. 

Collaborating with a Safe Quality Food (SQF)-certified food packaging manufacturer is a must, as well. They have demonstrated that their food processes are safe and high-quality, certification applying to all stages of the food supply chain, from farm to fork.

Costs & Benefits of Different Packaging Options

Compare the costs and benefits of different packaging materials, designs, and printing methods (including traditional and digital), and choose the ones that suit your budget and goals. If you want to save on packaging costs and reduce waste, for instance, you might want to use paper bags with self-seal pockets instead of plastic containers with lids.

Plus, it’s arguably more sustainable. 

Impact of Packaging on Product Shelf Life

Consider how your packaging affects the shelf life and freshness of your product, and choose the ones that can preserve its quality and taste for as long as possible. For example, if you want to extend the shelf life of your fresh meals without preservatives, you might want to use natural packaging with air removal that can prevent oxidation and spoilage.

Sustainable Grab-and-Go Food Packaging

Sustainable food packaging is about using less materials, less plastics, and less carbon emissions to protect your products and the environment. It involves choosing renewable or recycled materials, such as paperboard and cardboard or other sustainable substrates that come from certified sources. It also involves optimizing the size, design, and transportation of your packaging to reduce waste and energy use.

Sustainable food packaging has many benefits for your business and your customers. It can help you avoid toxins and allergens in your packaging, which is important for food safety. It can also help you attract and retain customers who care about the planet and want to support eco-friendly brands.

Sustainable food packaging is not just a trend. It is a necessity and an opportunity. By adopting sustainable food packaging practices, you can show your commitment to social responsibility and environmental stewardship.

Selecting Sustainable Packaging Materials

When you sell food products, you want to use packaging materials that are safe and sustainable, protecting your products and the environment.

Here are some popular materials for sustainable food packaging:

Oliver Inc. offers Unilustre® (from Unifoil), a repulpable, film- and plastic-free, metallized substrate that performs like paper. The material is a great option for adding eye-catching touches to your packaging, including embossing and debossing. With no plasticizers, it also retains tamper-evident and glueability qualities similar to traditional paperboard while having excellent scoring. Unilustre® is 100% water-based and certified recyclable, not to mention cost-competitive compared to similar materials.

Premium post-consumer paperboard, such as Clearwater Paper ReMagine premium paperboard, represents a breakthrough in paper-based sustainable materials.  This board contains up to 30% recycled fiber and matches the performance of SBS with a sustainable edge. ReMagine is optimized for print quality and customization, and is FDA-compliant for all types of food contact. 

Vegetable-based inks are biodegradable inks that can be used to print your graphics and information on your packaging. They are also cheaper than petroleum-based inks, which can save you money and resources.

Working With a Reliable Printing & Packaging Partner

Shelf-ready packaging is a great way to showcase your products and boost your sales. But you need a reliable and experienced manufacturer to help you create the best packaging for your brand. That’s why you need Oliver.

Oliver is a human-centric and customer-focused packaging partner. We can help you with every step of the packaging process, from design to printing to proofing, providing you a one-stop food packaging solution. We also offer different printing methods, such as flexo, litho, or digital.

We keep in touch with you throughout the entire process (and even afterward), providing support and guidance whenever you need it—because when you succeed, we succeed. 

Oliver is a printing and packaging manufacturer with more than 250 years of combined experience, having worked with some of the biggest brands in the food and packaging industry. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you design eye-catching food packaging.

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