July 1, 2006
Product distinction is a matter of innovative packaging for Sara Lee Foods, Downers Grove, Ill. Elizabeth Obbard, director, Hillshire Farm Lunchmeat & Innovation, connects the dots concerning deli meat for The National Provisioner.
NP: How do you use packaging to differentiate your brands? How did you develop your packaging?
EO: When developing packaging, we always start with consumer research. While freshness and convenience are always top needs among consumers, we also need to determine how the consumer will use each product. For example, who in the family will use it? How often will the package need to be opened and closed before the entire product is gone?
Once we have a clear understanding of this, we work closely with our packaging engineers to ensure we deliver a package that meets the needs of consumers using a specific product.
Hillshire Farm has a history of being first to market with category innovations. In addition to being the first to bring a resealable tub to market, we were also the first to bring pre-sliced deli meat in 1989, and first to seal smoked sausage in vacuum packed, net-weight packaging.
NP: Were there particular challenges in the search for the right packaging? If so, describe the solutions.
EO: Once we selected the current package, the only challenges were those you’d expect: reconfiguring production lines to be able to manufacture this new package.
NP: What did you hope to accomplish in selecting the chosen packaging?
EO: In the case of our Ultra Thin tubs, our goal was to deliver the quality and thinness of meat that [consumers] could only get in the deli, but without the wait. We feel very good about how well this product delivers on that.
NP: How does your packaging stand up concerning consumer appeal?
EO: It’s very easy to use, keeps the product fresh, and as an added bonus, the consumer can continue to use the tub to store other things after the product is gone. On average, these tubs are re-used six times.
NP: How does your packaging address such concerns as freshness, food safety, ease of opening and convenience, among other things?
EO: Because these are key consumer needs, it was very important to us that we address areas of freshness, food safety and ease of opening. By packing our lunchmeat products in resealable and reusable Glad tubs, we were able to deliver freshness and convenience very quickly. To further ensure freshness, we developed an inside wrap around the lunchmeat. The manner of packaging became so popular with consumers, that the lunchmeat category soon followed this method of packaging their thinly sliced meats. NP