Food Packaging Insights - October 16, 2008

‘Local’ labels score big with consumers
Soups duke it out over MSG
Grocers try to block consumer suits over labeling
Consumers can create their own Pringles can
Stove Top in individual cups
Counting calories for dogs

‘Local’ labels score big with consumers

  by Pan Demetrakakes Executive Editor

  Labels with “local” cues are becoming an important point of distinction for food packaging, and it’s a strategy that is within reach of even big national processors, according to a new report from the Hartman Group.

The report, Consumer Understanding of Buying Local, named several factors that are driving consumers to look for more locally produced food. These include scandals about tainted food that originated from China or other foreign countries; the belief that the less distance food travels to get to the store, the fresher it is; the belief that local food is less likely to include pesticides, preservatives or other components that consumers view negatively; and a sense of regional or civic pride in supporting local farmers and processors.

The Hartman report stated that 77% of consumers at least sometimes bought food that they perceived to be local. It also stated that the definition of “local” was somewhat elastic, with various consumers construing it to mean anything from “within 100 miles” to “somewhere in the United States.”

The report suggested that using local cues on labeling is a strategy available to even the biggest food processors.

“There are many ways for a national name brand to be ‘local’ by, for instance, having limited edition and/or seasonal products,” the report says. “Another way could be a nutrition bar with an ingredient that is grown in a certain area that gives it better taste perceptions.”

An example of using national pride to build a brand comes from the United Kingdom. Manor Born sausages, started by a farm couple in Yorkshire, has undergone several packaging changes since its launch about seven years ago. In the latest tweak, the company began putting the Union Jack on the package, to emphasize the product’s British origin.

“We could have used a British quality meat mark, we could have used a red tractor, we could have used a lot of things, but at this moment in time I think the flag is the clearest,” co-owner Debbie Keeble told the UK’s Packaging News magazine.


Soups duke it out over MSG
General Mills and Campbell Soup Co. are in a war of soup advertisements. After Campbell recently ran an ad in the New York Times claiming that General Mills’ Progresso brand soups contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), General Mills responded by placing its own full-page Times ad that read, “Campbell’s has 95 soups made with MSG.” This ad followed Progresso’s announcement that it removed MSG from 26 of its soups. Lynn Dornblaser, new products expert at the Mintel consulting firm in Chicago, said it’s highly likely that Campbell will strike back.

Grocers try to block consumer suits over labeling
Three major grocery store chains asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block consumers from suing over violating government food labeling rules. Kroger Co., Supervalu Inc. and Safeway Inc. contend that only government regulators can enforce federal and state labeling laws. This comes after consumers in California filed a suit accusing them of concealing that they sold salmon containing artificial coloring. The California Supreme Court cleared the lawsuits to proceed. While the lawsuit concerns fresh bulk products, it has potential implications for packaged products as well.  

Consumers can create their own Pringles can
Pringles is inviting consumers to design their own potato chip canister. Now through June, consumers can visit and design their own can graphics with the “Can Creator,” which can be printed and taped onto a Pringles can. For every can created, Procter & Gamble will donate $1 to the Children’s Miracle Network.


Stove Top in individual cups
Stove Top, the instant bread-based stuffing from Kraft Foods, now comes in single-serve microwaveable cups. Stove Top Quick Cups, available in chicken and cornbread flavors, is a cup of stuffing with a flexible lid. The consumer adds water and microwaves for 60 seconds for a single serving. Stove Tops Quick Cups were released in October, with a suggested retail price of 99 cents.

Counting calories for dogs
The calorie-control concept for single-serve packaging has gone to the dogs. Pup-Peroni, a popular dog treat from Del Monte Foods, has been rolled out in a 50-Calorie Snack Pouch. The concept plays off the product’s status as 90% fat-free. Eight flexible pouches come in a paperboard carton that contains daily caloric intake information and a handy snacking guide on the back panel.

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