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Meeting Consumers' Package of Demands

02 February 2011

The change in consumer habits and the growing wealth of populations is seeing a change in eating habits and demands, writes TheMeatSite Editor in Chief, Chris Harris.

The average age of populations in developing countries in Africa and Asia is growing while the people in the Western more developed world are getting older.

All these changes, together with the growing pace of life, are seeing changes in demand and tastes by consumers for products that are packaged in a way allowing more efficient handling.

There is also a demand for more finger food including products such as sausages in a fast moving society. However, sausage such as Frankfurters and Vienna sausages are not exactly the typical snack for people on the go. In most cases they come swimming in broth or are welded together several at a time in a large package.

However, the now sausage is being presented as a perfect snack.

While there have been salami style fermented sausage products, such as Pepperami snack sausages in the UK, for some time, German sausage and ham producer Rügenwalder Mühle is producing the Mülen Würstchen for snack lovers.

The sausages come in a transparent resealable plastic jar that the company says ensures that the six Knackwurst sausages can be kept fresh to the last bite.

"People's eating habits have now changed fundamentally," said Rügenwalder marketing chief Godo Röben.

"The traditional three meals a day have now been superseded by several small and often speedy snacks."

There is a current string trend towards convenience products like Mülen Würstchen.

Packages no longer have just their protective, transport and storage functions. They have a functional extra benefit as well.

"Straight forward handling of the product package is becoming more and more important for consumers," said Hilka Bergmann, head of packaging research at the Cologne retail consultants EHI Retail Institute.

Convenience features such as easy opening, resealability and portioning aids are becoming increasingly prominent in package design as well as special laminates that extend the products shelf-life and which are also microwaveable.

The packaging manufacturers are also having to take into account the changing age of populations with a growing aging population in Europe and the drive for more convenience foods - in particular kitchen ready chilled foods with long storage ability and designed for the healthy conscious.

In Germany, which will be staging the Interpack exhibition in Düsseldorf in May, the convenience market comprises 560,000 different products and is worth €30 billion.

"Convenience features have become very important for two thirds of consumers," said Katrin Waller an analyst with market intelligence company USP.

Much of the marketing war in the convenience food market is down to the packaging - a package that can communicate comfort and convenience to the consumer.

However, packaging manufacturers and processors are now also having to consider new demands on their packaging - demands of the environment.

More and more consumers are also demanding less packaging and packaging that is eco-friendly. Manufacturers have to spell out the carbon footprint of their product and ensure that it is recyclable while at the same time meeting all the demands for freshness, convenience and comfort.

January 2011

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