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    Pretty Packaging

    Meal kits, restaurant takeout raise the bar for package designs.

    As more meal kits enter the delivery market—backed by venture capital and big-name chefs—the pretty meal kit boxes, logos and recipe cards are sometimes getting as much attention as the food. One meal kit company, Baltimore-based Terra’s Kitchen, even saw an opportunity to deliver an eco-friendly message with its meals by designing reusable meal delivery systems to eliminate packaging waste.

    In the restaurant realm, Chipotle extends its brand message through takeout bags featuring high-minded quotes from contemporary writers. Even bigger bags from Chipotle convey the brand’s “Food with Integrity” message and describe the “tons of real food with tasty ingredients” inside.

    Most grocerants’ prepared food packaging, on the other hand, is relatively unremarkable, notes one industry leader.

    “So far, the prepared food market hasn’t really tried to elevate the experience through packaging,” says Lynn M. Dyer, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute. She points to Pizza Hut’s three-tier boxed meals or big meal deals as examples of distinctive packaging ideas that retailers should consider.

    “Not all retail settings have the resources to do custom packaging, so branding is often an afterthought,” she says. “But as prepared food programs get more established and continue to compete with restaurants, I see more time being spent to communicate branding and messages or to support types of cuisine, like bento boxes for Japanese fare, or slice-shaped boxes for grab-and-go pizza.”

    Packaging may not dictate meal dining decisions, but it’s becoming an important part of the whole package, especially as more food providers fight for consumer dollars.

    Grocerant-Ready Ideas:

    Transparent packaging that looks “homey” and just-cooked with simple stickered food labels

    Brand values, source stories and other messages conveyed on carry-out packs

    A reusable packaging system (with minimal disposals) for frequent buyers

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