Closing The Generation Gap

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Various consumer categories exist: children, elderly, men, women… with the growing ageing population especially today, food and beverage manufacturers would do well to cater products specially for them. By Sheila Heath, director, Crown Closures North America

Consumers are increasingly demanding for products that are customised to meet their specific needs and, consequently, there has been a growing trend of brands seeking to cater to different demographics rather than to everyone. Male shoppers, for example, have been a popular target segment recently due to their increased role in purchasing household products and groceries.

However, this is just one type of consumer group. Research shows that, depending on varying factors, people’s needs and wants can at times be very similar, and at others be extreme opposites. Whether brands already cater to well-known groups such as new mothers, or are starting to notice new groups that have increased buying power, companies need to consider the demands of different demographics and the unique packaging requirements for these diverse consumer segments.

Targeting Different Age Groups

Over the last few years, two different consumer groups have emerged as exciting segments for brands to target: millennials—people that were born between 1981 and 1999— and the ageing population, or veteran consumers—a group that is comprised of anyone over 60 years old.

Millennials currently make up about 25 percent of Asia’s total population and their worldwide purchasing power is expected to reach US$6 trillion by 2020. Veteran consumers, meanwhile, will represent almost a quarter of Asia’s population by 2050 and are expected to have a combined spending power of US$15 trillion worldwide by 2020.

What is interesting is that both of these demographics value the same attributes in packed goods but their needs and preferences vary greatly. Convenience, for example, continues to be one of the leading features most consumers look for when making a purchase.

Easy-to-open ends is one such development that has taken off in a big way. Most of the brands and private label companies have adopted these for canned products, as the convenience factor for consumers is far greater than a traditional one.

However, while the younger generation of consumers are look for packaging that is easy to open while on-the-go, such as tear-open flexible packaging or the above-mentioned food cans with easy-open ends, mature consumers sometimes find that same packaging difficult to handle without using additional tools.

Furthermore, millennials prefer smaller packages; seasoned consumers in contrast find that the font and print on smaller containers are harder to read.

Millennials will continue to be driving force for many brands, but with two billion people worldwide expected to be over 60 years old by 2050, consumer packaged goods (CPGs) provides around the globe need to begin developing tactics for catering to the needs of such a dominant group.

Research In Line With Consumer Demands

The good news is that future packaging engineers are already analysing new trends in consumer needs and package design. One such example is Jennifer Millin, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stout. During her last semester in the fall of 2014, Ms Millin conducted a class project to help identify the packaging needs for the ageing demographic. “The ageing consumer is reminded of their age by just looking in the mirror,” she said. “They don’t want to be reminded at the store shelf as well.”

While researching current packaging applications that relate to her project, Ms Millin found Europe to be more advanced than other regions when it comes to employing user-friendly packaging. One packaging innovation she reviewed in detail was Crown’s Orbit Closure. Launched in 2011, the closure was developed to reduce the torque required to open the lid, making it twice as easy to open when compared to standard twist-off closures.

The closure consists of two parts: a central, floating panel that is vacuum sealed to the jar and an outer ring that acts as the opening and re-closing device. Once consumers twist the closure to loosen the ring, they will hear a pop, which indicates that the inner panel has lifted and the seal has been broken.

A unique feature of the closure is that it does not alter the look of the package on the shelf. This means that brands can make the switch to a more user-friendly closure without having the need to change their package design or messaging architecture.

Ms Millin also conducted a study to determine consumer perception of the closure and to test its openability. The study concluded that 43 percent of participants were willing to pay more for packaging that was easier to open. Additionally, over half of participants said that they were prepared to completely switch brands if an alternative offered an easy opening system.

Of course, this closure is not the only product developed with diverse consumer needs in mind. The company also has options for ends that allow food cans improved tab access, enabling people with limited mobility, such as seniors, children and the physically impaired, to access food products without using a can opener or other apparatus.

Peelable ends have also been developed with the convenience market in mind. A thin, flexible foil is heat sealed to a simple steel or aluminium ring, with a tab that consumers can grasp and remove in one, simple fluid motion.

This technology is typically paired with bowl shaped food cans, which are ideally suited for brands that are looking to provide consumers with convenient packaging for single-serve and ready-to-eat foods. The added benefit of this type of closure is that it can be decorated, either with graphics or embossing with the brand logo, in order to enhance and complement existing packaging design.

Future Of Packaging Design

Packaging, in its many and varied guises, is a part of everyday life. The way in which manufacturers and brands influence purchasing decisions is of course aimed at increasing net sales and boosting profits, but at the same time, in doing so, they are making the lives of those consumers easier along the way.

Although future engineers are working towards identifying upcoming consumer needs, brands should also partner with a packaging supplier that has the experience and expertise in developing solutions for different customer segments.

Millennials are a global force when it comes to driving packaging design, but veteran consumers are rapidly closing the gap. Multinational brands have the opportunity to employ these established innovations to swiftly meet changing consumer demands, including the unique requirements of those over 60 years old.