When packaging and labels look bad, consumers assume the food inside is subpar, too.
People expect their meal kits to arrive looking like they do in commercials. Anything less is disappointing. When food kit packaging and labels aren’t ready for prime time, the impression is that the food inside isn’t up to par, either — which is not good. While your meal kits contain quality food that’s safe to eat, it has to also look that way to the consumer upon arrival and unpackaging.
How important is it really that your meal kit boxes look amazing? Let’s get some context. Meal kits were doing ok in 2019. But the 2020 pandemic caused meal kit sales to go through the roof, into the sky, and bounce off the moon. As a result, competition in the meal kit industry can best be described as “starving apex predators fighting over a sandwich.” Even Blue Apron, one of the most recognizable brands in meal kits, has struggled to maintain a monopoly in the market.
If Blue Apron feels the pain of competition, no doubt you are, too. So, what can you do to stay competitive in a saturated market? There are many marketing and sales efforts that can help drive revenue, but at the end of the day, if you’re not creating a great packaging experience for your customers, you’ll lose your foothold. Keep up with demand and put together consistently great-looking kits by ensuring your packaging line is accurate and efficient.
This is where good packaging and labeling processes come into play. If you’re hand labeling, achieving a result that would be worthy of sharing on social media or recommending to friends is near impossible. No matter how great your employees are at labeling, a machine’s going to do it better. And faster. And consistently perfect.
Here are some metrics to consider if you need to upgrade your line equipment for better results. Especially in regards to labeling, consider these qualities as you look for a dependable labeler.
Consistent label application impacts two things that make or break a meal kit in a customer's eyes: visual appeal and tamper evidence. Reliability and serviceability are essential, but if a reliable, easily-serviced machine can't apply the labels straight and solid, then it's not worth using.
The labels on your meal kit should be pleasing to look at, yes, well-designed and compelling, but crooked, peeling, bubbling labels will make any design go invisible behind such flaws. Now, while it's true that a label that looks applied by hand or crudely made is a turn-off, having an appealing-looking label that has space dedicated to a handwritten note is actually a good idea. Personalized labels with the customer's name and a short message like "Great choice," "This is one of our favorites," "Hope you enjoy!" makes the customer feel special and can give the impression that the company functions from a place of understanding and care.
Tamper-evident packaging is also extremely important. Customers want to trust the food. If the label is designed to tear when nefarious hands try to get into the package, the customer will know the food isn't safe to eat. Such labels also need to be applied precisely and exactly each time.
Reliability and Serviceability
These two go hand in hand. A reliable machine that’s not serviceable is no better than a machine that’s easily serviced but breaks down constantly. You need equipment that you can trust. Labelers should be made of rugged, rust-resistant, wear-resistant materials, such as S304 stainless steel and aluminum with tight tolerances. It should be to process containers fed to it then push them to the next machine without jams or misfeeds.
The labeler you choose should be easily serviceable, too. Spare parts kits kept on hand and employees trained in basic procedures can keep most issues at bay. Commonly worn parts should be accessible without having to tear apart the machine (in other words, it should be designed well!). But the manufacturer should also be reachable in case of an emergency and ready to send repair technicians if the problem is too significant for your staff to handle.
Just like that employee who fixes office computers, records the voicemail greetings for the office, runs night shifts when needed, and adjusts the breakroom coffee maker, your labeler should be just as flexible. How? It should handle various label types and applications, adapt to different container sizes, make quick speed adjustments, and be easily moved if a new line configuration is needed.
And your labeler should be pressure-sensitive. Flexibility means being able to set all the parameters you need, and not crushing a thin clamshell container or cardboard box is one of them. Really, your labeler should be as flexible as you’ve had to be. And when your labeler can’t perform an operation that you need? Then you need to consider expandability.
Eventually, if you need your labeler to print expiration dates or barcodes on packages or labels, then it should be expandable to include a label head printer. If you want to add an extra layer of protection to beverages with a tamper-evident shrink band tunnel, you should be able to do that, too. Rather than buying a brand new piece of equipment, it's much easier on your budget if your existing equipment can accommodate upgrades and additional features.
With expandable equipment, you don't have to re-evaluate the placement of your machines whenever you want to add functionality. Typically, if you wanted to add a label head printer to your line, you'd have to figure out if you even have the space for another machine. With an expandable modular labeler, just add on the printer — no need to disturb or disrupt your production line.
Finding the Right Labeler for Your Meal Kit Line
There’s a lot to think about when shopping for a new labeler. But, we’re here to help make the choice a little easier. Check out this handy labeler comparison chart. It shows which of our durable, high-quality, easy-to-operate labelers have the features you need to increase your line’s speed and perfectly label each meal kit every time.
And when it comes time to buy a labeler or choose an add-on like a hot stamp printer for barcodes, expiration dates, or other fresh food essentials, we’re happy to help you evaluate your options — just set up a free consultation.