In our second issue of PAK’R Magazine, we talked about some innovations in packaging that are on 2017’s radar, one of which being tactile packaging — that is, packaging you can feel and interact with beyond a standard box or plastic wrap. A start-up in Chicago is using a minimalist approach for vacuum-sealed beef, giving customers a 360 degree view of a product while guaranteeing protection and product quality.
In the heart of the Midwest, PRE Brands is attempting to modernize the way beef is sold. Their system operates with a number of core values, like sourcing their 100 percent grass-fed, hormone-free beef from Australia and New Zealand. This saves them the costs associated with maintaining that stock themselves, as well as having to own the land and facilities to process it. A 15-point Taste Standard communicates exactly what’s going into their beef (and what isn’t).
Founder and CEO Lenny Lebovich told ChicagoInno that his business operates in a way that’s closer to a tech company than a food or meat company. They use data they gather from their own in-store sales to figure out how to best market their product in the future. Clearly it’s working, because according to Nielsen Perishables Group, PRE Brands was the fastest growing beef brand in the United States last year with sales over $100,000 in.
What really interests us, though, is what they’ve done with their packaging. We’ve previously written about a number of ingenious creations like milk-based films and smart packaging, and PRE is adding to our list with their nifty flip-up vacuum pack.
Are You Feeling It Yet?
The flip-up pack, designed by Lebovich himself, allows customers to examine their product from all sides (hence the term “360 degree packaging”). Gone are the days of meat on foam boards, wrapped in stretchy plastic meat film. A new day has dawned, one where every flaw, every imperfection, and every inch of delicious beef is exposed to the customer’s all-examining eyes from every direction. Each cut and patty can be squished, poked, and otherwise prodded to give you an idea of what you’re about to slap on the cutting board — although we don’t condone excessive manhandling.
Speaking of boards, each pack is designed so that the product lifts up off of a recyclable faux cutting board with images of herbs and spices so that potential buyers can envision each item as it would look in their kitchen, ready to be prepared. This appealing paperboard backdrop can be easily removed, leaving you with a convenient little meat pouch that can be thawed via waterbath, or stored in a tightly-packed freezer. Not only does this make the packaging more convenient for the end user, but cuts down on excessive waste as well.
Much of this is an attempt to appeal to younger generations. As Tracy Sinclair, CMO of PRE Brands, tells Packaging Digest: “We want to help inspire Millennials to get in the kitchen and cook by making it as easy as possible—we walk you through every step on the back of our package”
Easy Peel tabs allow the package to be opened without ever having to physically touch the raw meat for those that find that classic squishy/meaty feel a bit off-putting. They also have recipes and nutritional information on the back, adhering to an ideal of simplicity and transparency the company is striving to embody.
“PRE brings the best of what nature has to offer, and the cutting board and seasonings are meant to reinforce this product benefit. […] It doesn’t take much to make a PRE steak or ground beef taste amazing, and having simple ingredients on the front of the package emphasizes this point.”
In most grocery stores, the foam-board-and-stretchy-wrap method is the standard for meat packaging. Known as Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), the air inside is removed and replaced with a specially formulated combination of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen to preserve the product and give it that cherry red, fresh appearance.
Traditionally, vacuum-sealing isn’t preferred because it can make a product less visually appealing. The removal of all air, namely oxygen, gives the meat a deeper, more purple color, which could be off-putting to consumers that are used to that bright red. It also lacks MAP’s ability to specifically tailor the package’s environment to suit the specific food being stored, and can make a product look squished by comparison.
PRE believes that their flip-up packaging is a way to avoid most of these issues. One of the key points in their Taste Standard is their chemical- and gas-free packaging. They’re embracing the deeper color, stating that it’s indicative of their minimalistic vacuum-sealing method, and that the meat will turn the familiar color once it’s removed from the package and exposed to oxygen. Their method also works well for meat specifically, which resists the distorting effects of a vacuum seal better than other products that would lose key characteristics.
Where vacuum vs. MAP is concerned, it appears that PRE has devised a way to get the best of both worlds.
A Touching Proposition
From a marketing standpoint, the more engaged your customers are with your product, the more likely they are to buy it. Obviously, bright colors and labels that catch the eye have been the standard in advertising for quite a while. However, studies have shown that consumers are often willing to pay more for products that also appeal to their sense of touch. This has led to a growing trend in tactile packaging.
Businesses can use touch to communicate certain attributes of a product to customers; Clondalkin Kirchberg makes shrink sleeves that convey a feeling of softness to products like laundry detergent, and yogurt lids that feel like the skin of a strawberry. Scented plastic is being employed to add shelf presence to goods you otherwise wouldn’t be able to smell without opening. PRE is taking this idea to heart in that you can feel and touch their products before you even remove them from the packaging.
Companies are changing the way we shop. When we walk into a store, we’ll more and more often encounter items that appeal to not just one but multiple senses, and provide something akin to an immersive experience. They want to give their customers as transparent and complete a picture of their product as possible. With enhancements like 360 degree packaging and other tactile innovations, the things we buy are giving us a wealth of information before we even open a box.