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Is Your Packaging Messing with Your Clean Label Message?

Meat and poultry processors have always gone to great lengths to ensure their products are processed, packaged and stored in a way that balances food safety with production costs. But the “clean label” trend of the last few years may be adding a new dimension to those efforts, and to packaging in particular.

The demand for clean label products is growing, and surveys show consumers are willing to pay for it. According to a recent study, 52% of respondents said they would spend over 10% more on a food or beverage product that contained ingredients they recognized and trusted. In addition, there is an increasing demand for transparency from food companies about where and how their products are made and what ingredients are in them.

In the protein industry, the “clean label” trend is reflected in a growing number of meat and poultry products labeled additive-free, organic, or all-natural. One aspect that may get forgotten in the focus on labelling, however, is how their packaging reinforces the clean label promise. How can a protein processor make sure that the product packaging is telling the clean label story?

What Does “Clean Label” Mean, Exactly?

It’s important to start with an understanding of what the term “clean label” really means. Unfortunately, this isn’t an easy answer. Clean Label isn’t a regulated term (like “organic,” for example) and means different things to different organizations. But whether it means fewer ingredients, lower environmental impact, no synthetic additives, or any of the other options, what it boils down to is a movement calling for greater clarity about the product’s ingredients and manufacturing process.

With honesty and integrity in production as the central idea behind all clean label claims, manufacturers pursuing this distinction need to showcase these efforts and make sure that customers are aware of this key product difference.

How to Champion Clean Label Through Packaging

Consumers say that ingredients have an impact on their purchasing decisions, but as many as one-fourth of them are not interested in actually reading the label. The look of the label, the phrases used and the package itself are enough to communicate the message. When it comes to protein packaging, it is essential that processors keep this idea in mind. “Clean Label” meat and poultry products in packaging that is cloudy, wrinkled or obstructs the consumer’s view of the product inside is sending a different message, and processors may actually be doing themselves a disservice when it comes to promoting those differences in the eyes of consumers.

A key component in clean label packaging is package clarity. Clear packaging highlighting the product inside communicates that message without words. Flavorseal roll stock and vacuum shrink bags, for example, retain their high clarity and transparency throughout the packaging and distribution cycle, whereas other shrink packaging products may become cloudy. This crystal-clear transparency is perfect for clean label products and for processors that want to showcase their all-natural, additive-free, or premium product status. The difference also goes a long way to support the truth in packaging messages implicit in all clean label products.

Particularly when it comes to proteins like meats and poultry, a packaging that helps reduce purge is essential to reinforcing the “clean label” message. Many consumers are distrustful of purge as part of a natural process when packaging proteins, and see it as a reflection of added water or other chemicals during the packaging process. A high shrink rate on a package can help reduce the visible purge, leading to an overall “cleaner” looking package. Flavorseal shrink bags, for example, are formulated and manufactured to form a neat and particularly tight package around meats, poultry and other products and help prevent juices or purge from developing inside the package. It’s a distinction that plays well with the high quality, clean label message.

Looking for another way to reinforce “clean label” messaging in product packaging? The packaging materials themselves can be an important indicator for some consumers, particularly those concerned about issues like BPA (bisphenol A) in packaging. Shrink packaging that is BPA-free, like Flavorseal’s, can be an added advantage when communicated clean label claims.

So as you begin marketing your clean label products, consider whether your packaging is along for the ride, or if it champions the clean label story your products are offering.

For more information about how Flavorseal shrink packaging can showcase clean label products, please contact us.

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