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That’s Eatertainment: The future of convenient packaging solutions

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The Americans have a phrase for an experience which combines eating with entertainment: Eatertainment. Although this phrase was originally coined in the 90s, and related specifically to the restaurant sector, in particular to sport, music or film events, its meaning today would surely be somewhat more diverse.

 In 2017, live events continue to endure. However, major advancements in in-home entertainment systems from the 00s onwards has opened up new markets for a variety of sectors, including the market for convenient packaging solutions.

In 2016, we explored foodservice trends that inspire innovative packaging solutions. So, we won’t cover that ground again. What we’ll look at this month are three ways that ‘in-home’ eatertainment opportunities create challenges that are ripe for packaging manufacturers to address by developing innovative, convenient packaging solutions.

1.     The T.V Dinner is now a ‘friends and family’ event

 Entertainment shows across Europe such as Ven a Cenar Conmigo (Spain) Come Dine With Me (UK) and MeisterKoch (Germany), continue to spark consumer interest in home cooking. And as a result, consumers are hosting their own at-home foodie ‘challenges’ and experiences for friends and family. As you’re reading this, you may even be thinking back to the last Come-Dine-With-Me-themed party you attended. And the extremely sore head you had the next day…

 But we digress. These types of events, though gaining in popularity, are also labour-intensive to prepare. And, whilst consumers are becoming more interested in ‘quality’ experiences, the process still needs to have an element of convenience about it to retain an aspect of fun.

 Don’t get me wrong, passing off a pre-prepared dip as handmade by scooping it from a plastic pot into a lovingly misshapen earthenware dish is pretty convenient. And puts a tick in the right sustainability boxes too, if the remnants are spooned back in and saved for later (re-use, tick), before rinsing and discarding the pot (recycling bin, tick). Or maybe even for transporting an appropriately sized portion of nuts and seeds to work (ingenious upcycle, tick).

 However, modern packaging solutions are designed to contribute even more to the eatertainment process than this.  Prime Cook by LINPAC for Dunbia, for example, is a specially-designed rigid rPET plastic pack that is cooked sous vide, in a hot water bath at a low temperature for a long duration, before it reaches the consumer. A joint of meat that would usually take 1.5 hours to cook, now takes around 30-40 minutes instead (lower cooking energy use and carbon footprint, tick).

Do you get points for delivering tasty, nutritious food fast on Come Dine With Me theme nights? If so, sign us up, we’re in.

 2.    All the elements for an authentic, convenient mealtime

Shows such as MeisterKoch and access to blogs and social-sharing platforms online have resulted in a consumer base that is educated on the finer culinary experiences in life. Most consumers know their way round a pair of chopsticks thanks to retailers such as  Itsu in the UK and Planete Sushi in France. Consumers are also less afraid to try new flavours and textures and in 2017, novel ingredients such as insect proteins are starting to make an appearance on the market.

More often than not, a truly authentic experience is associated with a restaurant booking. And yes, in reality many of the techniques and ingredients required to cook authentic ethnic dishes are still out of reach of the average consumer’s food-preparation timescale. However, a new understanding of the required elements has lent itself to innovations in convenience food packaging.

Better still, packs such as the LINPAC sushi and sashimi packs for Mercadona in Spain  have been designed to include the chopsticks, wasabi and ginger in a food-safe compartment. As well as being a handy, complete meal ‘kit’ for on-the-go snacking this type of solution offers the consumer all the required elements to transport safely and construct an at-home sushi night without the hassle of buying additional condiments and utensils.

By now, you may be starting to identify well designed, innovative packaging with serving and supporting a variety of industries and a range of consumer needs…

 3.    Reducing food and packaging waste from the comfort of your home

In this blog and in our foodservice trends blog of last month, we’ve largely spoken about groups of people eating together. You could argue, that getting together round the table is the one time in which to focus less on convenience and more on quality time. However long it may take to prepare an elaborate dinner.

One demographic that is likely to appreciate convenient packaging the most is the time-poor professional, who barely has time to visit the nearest city express-style store before heading home to re-open their laptop in front of the television. A consumer from this group may be single, or their partner may be working late. Either way, what they’re likely to require is a nutritious meal with little fuss or hassle.

Compartmental portion control packs are ideal at addressing this need. The LINPAC chicken split pack for Cargill and Tesco, for example, has a unique, perforated ‘snap-off’ design that allows the consumer to eat one chicken breast and keep the other sealed for later use. In addition, the pack, which is manufactured from in excess of 95 per cent post-consumer recyclate, can be rinsed and thrown straight in the recycling bin ready to re-enter the recycling chain (check your local recycling information).

A pack that supports portion control, reduces food waste and is recyclable sounds like the perfect convenient solution for the eco-conscious consumer. Where do we sign up?

In summary

Today’s convenient packaging solutions must be efficient multi-taskers. Whether a consumer is grabbing lunch to take back to the office, to take home or both, packaging must play its part in making that person’s life just a little bit easier. And, if convenient packaging solutions are the perfect support act to modern in-home eatertainment scenarios, then that’s all the better. Convenience should no longer be associated with a quick, lesser-quality alternative, it’s intrinsic to a modern way of living. 

For more information on LINPAC packaging solutions for the convenience sector, please get in touch on +44 (0)1977 692 111

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