What Customers Look For In Meal Kit Packaging

What Customers Look For In Meal Kit Packaging


Sustainable packaging that protects food appeals to more consumers.

Meal kits have a problem. No, not profitability, though that will be a struggle in a post lockdown world. Rather, meal kit packaging is the issue. 

With environmental and ecological concerns on more customers’ minds, they are increasingly guiding purchasing decisions. Meal kits with biodegradable packaging are becoming easier to find, but the industry as a whole is still responsible for a lot of packaging waste.

That’s not to say that meal kits are nothing but wasteful. Meal kits are helping with the issue of food waste, for example. Because meal kits come packaged with individual portions, there’s a lower occurrence of food spoilage. Arguably, food waste is the more significant short-term problem given the amount of hunger and starvation even in the United States

But why can’t meal kits do both? Why not reduce packaging and increase sustainability while tackling food waste at the same time? Even if this shift isn’t something your customers are currently demanding, offering a meal kit with biodegradable packaging or a meal kit with little packaging can do several positive things:

  1. Help win new customers who won’t use your service because of the perception of waste.
  2. Keep customers who do care about packaging and might cancel because of the issue.
  3. Do something positive for the environment regardless of what customers think.

The change will require some planning, but it’s worth it to head off the backlash that the meal kit industry is currently facing.

Meal Kit Companies with Sustainable Packaging

Some meal kit services like Housemade have eliminated all plastics in favor of using all paper products, even soluble stickers. The upside is the packaging is fully recyclable and sustainable. The downside is that the paper packaging restricts the menu. They make meat dishes work because the delivery range is relatively small, so there’s no time for the food to spoil or the containers to get soggy and degrade on a cross-country trip. Still, they’ve managed to make completely sustainable packaging.

Sun Basket has worked hard to achieve 100% sustainability, which is no mean feat given their national reach and need for fresh food. Their plastics are low-density polyethylene (LDP), which are widely recyclable, and they use recyclable fiber or paper wherever possible. Their ice packs are even recyclable, which is rare.

What Meal Kit Packaging Can’t Give Up

In the move to using sustainable and recyclable packaging, there are some essential functions that the packaging must still provide. 

It must:

  1. Keep the food fresh
  2. Be compatible with your packaging line
  3. Not be too difficult to source
  4. Not be so expensive that it makes meal kits unaffordable

Finding new packaging that meets these criteria isn’t impossible — it just takes some digging. Let’s take a look at each of these metrics to analyze how you can provide customers with environmentally friendly meal kit packaging.

Food Freshness & Integrity

Maintaining freshness is about more than just keeping the food from spoiling; it must also keep it from cross-contaminating. This means avoiding permeable materials when packaging cold/liquid items, keeping airtightness and maintaining a consistent temperature, especially for refrigerated items. Preserving food like raw meat requires special attention because it needs to meet all those metrics to be safe for the consumer.

Thankfully, the packaging industry is responding to the widespread need for sustainable packaging. Meat has presented a particular challenge, but thin yet strong films are being developed, and an emphasis has been put on recyclability. The upshot is these films are also lighter in weight, which cuts down on shipping costs.

Food Freshness & Integrity

Packing Equipment Compatibility

If your current packaging line is set up for specific package types, it can be difficult, but not impossible, to transition. If you have any machines that use heat to seal plastic packaging, these may need to be recalibrated for thinner films. Labeling machines will be more flexible in the materials they can use, but the labels themselves may require a shift. Backless labels cut down on waste and work with most standard labeling machines. Source boxes that are the same size as your old ones so that you won’t have to set up your machines to feed the new ones properly.

You will need to make sure your materials are compatible with each other as well. If you order trays that are slightly larger than your old ones, you may run into space issues in your boxes. You will also have to consider insulation properties, as well. If you’re using thinner gauge materials, heat and cold may dissipate more quickly. 

Package Sourcing

Companies like EcoEnclose and Earthpack offer eco-friendly packaging materials to companies who want to champion sustainability. Options are increasing all the time, but it can take some experimentation to find the packaging that best suits your meal kits. Whatever materials you decide to use, have backups in case your primary choices become challenging to find.

Meal Kit Subscription Pricing

Meal Kit Subscription Pricing

Remember that you will almost certainly pay some more on the front end for your sustainable packaging. This can be offset in a couple of ways:

  1. Look for ways to minimize the amount of packaging you have to use
  2. Charge accordingly

Increasing prices doesn’t mean making the meal kits unaffordably expensive. Charging slightly more money won’t turn off someone who wants to make meal kits a part of their lives, and in fact, plenty of people are willing to pay more for a product they know is sustainable.

What you don’t want to do is pick new packaging that drastically undercuts your bottom line. Picking boxes and packaging material that’s twice as expensive isn’t good business. But, you can ease into more sustainability. Start with recyclable, thinner pouches for meat. Move to soluble stickers. Pre-mix some ingredients that don’t need to be separate.

Meal Kit Packaging Changes Might Require a New Labeler

Switching to new packaging ensures your meal kit business heads into the future on solid footing, but it will require some work. You’ll have to evaluate your key performance indicators (KPIs), review your business plan, and take a long, hard look at your packaging line. Will your current labeler cut it? Or will you need to step up to meet demand and packaging compatibility? Find out everything you need to know with our Meal Kit Delivery Services Guide to Labeling Equipment. You’ll get crucial advice on what to look for when deciding on new equipment. When you need a new labeling partner, turn to the experts at Pack Leader USA.


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