Most food manufacturers consistently worry about labor, pricing and production. But, a sometimes overlooked element to delivering product to retailers on time is packaging. Many factors can impact whether a manufacturer fills an order or shorts a retailer, including packaging issues. Thankfully, with enough planning, strategy and creativity, manufacturers can avoid many of the top retail food packaging challenges.
Top Retail Food Packaging Challenges
“You can have all the labor, all the product, all the orders in the world – but if you can’t deliver the product because you don’t have packaging to put it in, none of it matters,” said Chris Chatterton, Executive Vice President at Bay Food Brokerage.According to Chris, there are many reasons a food manufacturer lacks packaging or the supplies needed to package their product. Many result from supply chain issues.
Over the last several months, food logistics issues have delayed delivery of packaging supplies. Shipping and transportation challenges, especially for materials coming from outside of the U.S., have left many food manufacturers without the materials they need to package products.
Another top food packaging challenge boils down to certain packaging supplies being difficult or impossible to get. This currently includes a shortage of CO2, which is used in the process of packaging foods like fresh meat.
Chris also notes that sometimes manufacturers simply find they’ve not properly planned for how much packaging they’ll need. They run out of packaging and have to wait, potentially months, to get more.
“From a volume standpoint, in recent years volume has been higher and sales have been higher,” Chris said. “But, the manufacturer isn’t always aligning that growth with their packaging inventory needs.”
How Manufacturers Can Avoid Top Retail Food Packaging Challenges
While things like supply chain problems and other top retail food packaging challenges can be beyond manufacturers’ control, that doesn’t mean manufactures can’t still successfully navigate them.
“Manufacturers who have a good handle on the potential problems that could come up can be proactive in planning how to overcome those issues,” Chris said.
His tips for avoiding or overcoming the top retail food packaging challenges include:
- Diversify suppliers: Have multiple packaging vendors lined up and set up in the system. That way, if the primary supplier can’t deliver on time, there are others on standby who, hopefully, can.
- Get creative: Have a contingency plan when it comes to packaging. For example, if your container usually uses in-mold printing, have a back-up plan that involves blank tubs and stickers.
- Align packaging inventory with forecasted sales: After forecasting sales, make sure to have enough packaging on hand or on the way to package products on the correct timeline.
- Carry bigger inventories of packaging: When possible, carry a surplus of packaging inventory to ensure you have what you need when you need it. However, note there is a delicate balance to strike between having what you need and storing packaging that eventually gets thrown out, due to a rebrand or other change down the line.