It comes as no surprise that consumers continue to seek prepared foods for their meal solutions. As a result, rotisserie chicken has become one of the most popular, prepared items in supermarket delis today. What’s more, industry studies show that an increasing number of consumers are willing to pay extra for convenient and versatile packaging. And, because today’s consumers are more health-conscious than years past, they are more likely to seek nutritional labeling stated on the packaging, along with reheating and preparation instructions.

There are two common types of packaging for these products — a clear, polypropylene tray with a domed top — or flexible, leak-resistant bags that typically feature a viewing window for enhanced product visibility.

Over the years, most of the changes in this segment have been related to packaging.

And they have been lucrative indeed.

In fact, recent changes in rotisserie packaging have been so successful that retailers are trying to modify packaging even further, gearing it towards deli delivery. The idea being, the more prepared foods retailers offer, the more they can market and the bigger the segment will become. In the case of rotisserie packaging, new innovations, materials and graphics have given this category new life. These changes have been spurred on by today’s more sophisticated consumers, who are looking for enhanced packaging that provides safety, convenience and appeal.

Consumers want rotisserie packaging that is both tamper-proof and leak-resistant. They also look for convenience features, such as a built-in handle for easy carrying, microwaveability for reheating and a proof, resealable zipper.

Packaging graphics also are important. Consumers see benefits to packages that give them the ability to view the product inside, as well as the ability to read cooking and reheating instructions or nutrition information. Attention-getting designs help to grab the consumers’ eye. Additionally, flexible packaging provides innovative solutions to today’s fast-paced society. A number of new packaging lines have recently debuted in response to consumers’ and retailers’ needs.

Hot market

The Washington, D.C.-based National Chicken Council reports that an estimated 800 million rotisserie chickens are sold annually, and that rotisserie sales have been increasing between 5 percent and 10 percent yearly over the past decade, double the rate of overall chicken growth. But while rotisserie’s popularity is surging, analysts warn that negative shopper experiences with packaging can easily slow the momentum. And that is putting more pressure on manufacturers to develop resilient, leak-proof packages that are easy to carry and guaranteed to keep foods fresh.

Yet, packaging suppliers say they are responding to such concerns by releasing updated designs that enhance food safety and are visually appealing. For instance, flexible microwavable pouches have been formulated to support greasy rotisserie chicken. Components include a reclosable zipper, anti-fog technology, a wide gusset for easy loading, a large window that enables consumers and retailers to view the enclosed product, and proprietary venting that is intended to keep chicken moist. The key alternative to flexible packaging is the clear polypropylene tray with a domed lid, which provides additional visibility of the chicken.

With analysts projecting that consumers will flock in even greater numbers to supermarket delis for take-out meals, and more retailers set to offer larger selections of rotisserie meats, packaging is on track to becoming even more sophisticated and functional. But the ability of products to withstand stress will remain the key attribute — package reliability is an important feature for consumers.

Not just for chicken

Chicken is strengthening its position as the king of the deli rotisserie case. More retailers are expanding their rotisserie chicken offerings and adding additional flavors and package sizes to attract an even larger base of convenience-minded shoppers seeking quick and tasty meals.

However, chicken is just one of an assortment of rotisserie proteins being targeted toward the take-home sector. Pork and turkey, for instance, also are becoming more prevalent as suppliers and merchants expand their protein selections and marketing of the meats in an attempt to muscle in on chicken’s control of the case and attract additional buyers.

Because supermarket delis are expanding their rotisserie offerings to include turkey breast, pork tenderloin, ribs, ham and roasts, suppliers are creating the leak-resistant packaging systems that feature colorful graphics that help easily identify the packaging’s contents. With the many changes occurring in this segment, one fact remains clear — packaging manufacturers are working on new ideas and designs that result in a satisfactory rotisserie purchase every time.

Current trends in rotisserie packaging

  • Packaging that provides portability and flexibility.
  • Packaging that is easy to carry and easy to handle — for example, bags with zippers that can reseal the contents easily or in which the chicken can be reheated.
  • Color-coding of the packaging to indicate what spices were or were not used.
  • Windows for visibility so that the consumer can see the product.
  • Recipe suggestions both for the first and second meal.
  • Reasonably priced with additional sides for a complete meal.

Trends provided by JoAnn Hines, self-proclaimed “Packaging Diva” of and founder of Women in Packaging®.