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How to find the right balance in offering consumer convenience

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How to find the right balance in offering consumer convenience

Everyone enjoys something that is more convenient, easier to open, carry or consume. But can convenience be taken too far? Some retailers have attracted unwanted negative press around their convenience boosting decisions of late.

Canadian food retailer Sobeys ‘faced furious backlash’ from the launch of their de-stoned, halved and peeled avocado in plastic and cardboard packaging. The retailer defended accusations with an explanation that some consumers may not be clued up on preparing avocado, so providing the product in this way ‘eliminates guesswork’.

Previous to this, Whole Foods removed their new idea of pre-peeled oranges in plastic packaging from the shelves following ‘social media ridicule’. UK retailer Marks and Spencer has also been subject to the same concern with their launch of pre-sliced avocado snack pots.

The key to providing convenience for consumers is finding the right balance. However, as we know, each consumer is different and may see view convenience in a different way.

Whilst one consumer may see a packaged, pre-sliced, avocado snack pot as unnecessary, an office worker with no kitchen access, wanting to quickly add some avocado to their salad at their desk, will think very differently. Similarly, the average person may see a peeled orange as excessive, whereas the elderly lady down the road with arthritis in her hands may be glad of the support.

The controversy in all of this tends to stem from the perception of ‘unnecessary’ packaging and increased packaging waste; this however, can be looked at from both sides.

It is important to remember that the use of packaging can in fact help to fight against food waste. According to The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) approximately 60% of household food waste arises from products ‘not used in time’ in the U.K.

The inconvenience of peeling, removing stones or cutting fruit and other food products could be putting convenience seeking consumers off buying whole products or consuming them in their home, simply due to lack of time or choice.

According to the Love Food Hate Waste campaign apples are among the most wasted foods in the UK – 190,000 tonnes per year being thrown away.

If consumers buy the food they need as and when, as such is the tendency nowadays, conveniently prepared fruit and vegetables are likely to be consumed straight away; contrary to the big bag of apples that sits in the fridge and finally gets thrown away when not all have been consumed.

What’s more, the trend of pre-prepared products could potentially save those poor ‘imperfect’ fruit and vegetables that are cast aside and wasted due to being deemed unsuitable for retail. Check out blog ‘Say ‘yes’ to wonky veg’ for all the latest figures.

Packaging can also maintain food freshness, provide more effective on-pack messages and supply information about how to store food. Take a look at blog ‘Three Massive Misconceptions About Plastic Packaging’ to get further insight into the subject.

Food manufacturers, retailers and packaging manufacturers will continue to work towards finding this balance. However, it is key to remember that everyone is different and one person’s view of convenience can be very different to that of another’s.

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