3 keys to keeping it fresh in the food packaging industry

Freshness in food packaging goes far beyond keeping cupcakes moist and cookies crispy. You also need fresh ideas that fuse elegant design, human-focused construction, and an earth-friendly afterlife.

An excellent starting point for fresh thinking is the 1.3 billion tons of food that goes to waste worldwide every year—one-third of all food production.

We can do better. A fresh approach to packaging can help brands:

  • Align carton production with real-time demand, reducing waste and obsolescence.
  • Make packaging easier to use and reuse.
  • Strengthen their commitment to recyclable folding-carton materials.

Refresh your perspective on food packaging with these tips:


Be bold and different with your packaging design, so your product can stand out online and on the shelf. Your design is the last message consumers see so it needs to make an impression. With online food sales gaining, your packaging also needs to withstand the distribution chain.

At GREIF (formerly Caraustar), we have a team of designers who can create innovative and exciting options for your product packaging to catch your customer’s eye. From structural design to creative to pre-press and printing options, we can create an end product that meets your needs.

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Case studies: Designing for our food-manufacturing customers

We sell premium packaging to boutique manufacturers who require a unique buyer experience—right down to the boxes:

  • A high-end candy maker had a nagging color-reproduction problem: They needed a rich black tone on the packaging sleeves that they could not get from other providers. They also needed precise production runs in small quantities that were impractical on a traditional offset press. Our digital press enabled us to create a folded carton with an aqueous coating that delivered the precise color tone our customer required. And we matched the precise quantities they needed, reducing waste.
  • A luxury cupcake maker needed more personalized packaging, precise color reproduction, and help with graphic design. Our in-house design team helped them get the exact colors they needed from the digital press, allowing them to add five new products to their portfolio, which helped boost cash flow.

Frustration-free shopping

Food packaging needs to account for how people buy. Though Americans buy only a tiny slice of their food online today, Amazon and many of its brick-and-mortar rivals expect online sales to become a growing segment of their business in the years to come.

As people become more confident about buying food products online, food brands will have to pay much closer attention to the strength and endurance of direct-mail packaging. Thinking only about the traditional store shelf won’t cut it much longer.

Customers want easy-to-understand claims and offers on product cartons. Strategic placement of expiration dates can help people consume food products while they’re fresh. Unique, thoughtful shapes can capture people’s attention and provide utility that encourages keeping a box rather than discarding it.

Packaging also should be easy to open. It shouldn’t be a hassle to get the products out of the box. Buyers should not feel their food purchases generate a pile of paper waste.

Environmental friendliness

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that by 2050, plastic will outnumber fish in the oceans if we don’t change our ways. At the same time, consumers are becoming increasingly insistent on low-impact packaging that’s easy to recycle and reuse.

You don’t have to pour an ocean of money into earth-friendly packaging. You can start with a simple transition to recyclable paperboard packaging if it’s the right match for your products and consumers. Other approaches include developing packaging that’s too beautiful to throw away or making your cartons strong enough to be useful long after the food’s been consumed. Placing a simple “please reuse” message on your packages can make a world of difference for the environment.

At GREIF, we’ve been recycling paperboard products across four generations. Today’s technology helps us—and our clientele—reduce waste while printing on folding cartons that buyers find unforgettable. That’s about as fresh as it gets.

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