What Do Consumers Want From Cheese Packaging?
Reclosable Flexible Packaging Goes the Extra Mile
By Gianni Holzem, Commercial Sales Director, Reynolds Consumer Products at Fresh-Lock®
It is important for cheese packagers to captivate the consumer’s attention by differentiating their product on the shelf. When it comes to cheese, the sheer variety and their unique storage needs pose a special challenge for packaging. To keep cheese products safe and delicious for as long as possible, the key features of protection, functionality, and sustainability need to go the extra mile.
Why do cheese products pose a unique challenge for product protection, and what solutions exist?
While most food packaging is designed to protect the product, proper packaging for cheese must do more than protect it from outside contaminants. Cheese products are increasingly complex, and each type of cheese will vary in how it needs to be maintained. To adequately protect cheeses, brands should utilize packaging that is properly adapted to help maintain each type’s specific flavor, consistency, and microbiota.
Since specific moisture levels are vital in preserving different types of cheese, packaging should function to combat moisture loss. In some cases, packaging should allow the cheese to ‘breathe.’ Swiss would be an example, as it expels CO2. However, breathability is not necessary for most other cheeses, as they do not gas off.
Oxygen can also affect the quality of cheese products. When a high moisture cheese is exposed to oxygen over time, it can lead to unwanted mold growth. To help prevent deterioration of flavor, texture, and freshness, cheese products require packaging with barriers that can lock moisture in and oxygen out.
It is not uncommon to see cheese products in vacuum shrink bags, but if the package is not equipped with reclosable technology, it may not be the most optimal packaging option for many types of cheese. This means that once a package is opened, it stays open and will not be protected for extended storage.
Instead, reclosable flexible packaging is an excellent solution to the complex challenges associated with cheese products. Reclosable flexible packaging can offer the barrier properties and closure technologies necessary to help retain the proper amounts of moisture, while also dispelling excess humidity and oxygen.
How much more ‘functional’ can packaging be?
With various types of closure systems available for cheese product packaging, brands can deliver different experiences in functionality for their products. Ease of use is an excellent way for brands to enhance functionality and set themselves apart from the competition. Cheese packaging should be simple—and effective—for consumers to open and reclose. Track and slider style closures help create ease of operation when it comes to reclosability, especially when a slider is designed for better gripping and consistent closing on small to medium-sized cheese packages.
If a slider is not your brand’s preferred closure system, it is important that press-to-close designs be easy for users to align and reclose after opening. Brands can enhance the functionality of their packaging through features that provide consumers with additional assurance that their product is not in jeopardy. Easy open and close zippers that provide sensory feedback can achieve just that. When consumers can hear and feel the click of the zipper, they are more likely to feel confident that the package is securely closed, and their product is stored safely inside. This audible/tactile experience can also be paired with interlocking channels that help prevent air from passing through.
Brands can also opt to use a double-lock closure design. Double-lock closure systems can offer an increased gripping area and consistent closure performance. This technology functions to help slow down the rates of moisture transmission, making it beneficial for many types of moisture-rich cheese. By maintaining an appropriate atmosphere inside the package, the shelf life for cheeses with a soft texture can be extended beyond those packaged without reclosability.
How can reclosable flexible packaging for cheese products enhance sustainability?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the U.S. alone discards between 30%-40% of the food supply. Reclosable flexible packaging can help curb these numbers by helping to extend the product’s shelf life and provide opportunities for package circularity.
When cheese is packaged without enhanced protection, it is more likely that oxygen will enter the package, or that the moisture levels will fluctuate, causing the product to spoil before it is finished—regardless of the expiration date. When this happens, the product must be thrown out. This experience may leave consumers feeling unsatisfied with the shelf life of their cheese products, prompting them to reconsider their options the next time they buy.
While reliable closures can help in reducing the waste of food, reclosable flexible packaging has additional benefits that can assist brands in efficiently and effectively making strides toward sustainability. Reclosable flexible packaging offers the ability to be used continuously throughout the product’s lifecycle. This eliminates the need for consumers to repackage the product, helping prevent unnecessary waste of single-use plastics.
Furthermore, flexible packaging is lightweight compared to many rigid alternatives. This can aid in reducing a brand’s carbon emissions during transportation because more can be transported at once, lessening the impact on the environment.
Sustainable closures that target circularity can also benefit cheese brands that are looking to be more environmentally conscious. As the technology behind recyclable and compostable closures advance, cheese brands can pair corresponding closures with recyclable and compostable films. With recyclable or compostable pouches, brands can still deliver the same convenience features of traditional reclosable packaging, but with the advantage of it being an eco-friendly option that consumers will appreciate.
What can brands do to make an impact on the consumer experience?
While reclosable flexible packaging provides many advantages for cheese producers and packagers, consumer demand is driving much of the growth. Despite the complexities associated with storing cheese products for prolonged use, flexible packaging equipped with a convenient closure system helps address concerns associated with product protection, functionality, and sustainability.
While there are many ways your brand can leave a lasting impression on consumers, connecting with a trusted packaging partner can help you take advantage of the benefits that come from reclosable flexible packaging for cheese products.
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