Jumpy about germs? Brands can boost safety and quality credentials with anti-bacterial packaging

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Canadean anti-bacterial packaging food cans tins health freshness
The market for anti-bacterial food cans is set to grow, predicts market research company Canadean, adding the niche market will become ‘more mainstream’ over the coming years. 

Consumers are increasingly concerned about freshness, quality, and safety: while retailers and brands will want to market products that address these issues.

Consequently, Canadean says anti-bacterial packaging - designed to delay the development of germs and bacteria - 'is set to become a hit with consumers​.'

Who knows where that’s been?

A survey by the company found over half of Britons are worried about bacteria on the outside of food cans, more than the presence of dirt, dust, dents or discolouration.

Michael Hughes, lead analyst, Canadean, told FoodProductionDaily.com this reflects the move towards a ‘sterilised society.’

“Consumers are becoming more aware of the presence of bacteria around them, and more conscious about the effect it can have on their health - even if in reality this is overhyped and misunderstood,” ​he said.

“This can be linked to consumers becoming more concerned about freshness and the shelf life of products, and products that could be detrimental to their health. This is particularly true if consumers think the product has been imported from afar, which could have had an impact on freshness during distribution.”

Antibacterial packaging could reassure the increasing number of consumers who are buying food on-the-go, he added. It would also reassure consumers who are buying from unfamiliar retailers, or in situations where they are less confident about safety and quality.  

“The message this sends to canned food manufacturers is consumers are becoming more concerned about the traceability of groceries and any potential safety issues that can impact their health.

“As consumers want to know more about the products they consume and how they arrived in their presence, packaging claims emphasizing freshness and safety can help enhance quality credentials – and as such perceptions of value for money.”

Extra care and attention

The survey of 2,000 UK consumers said 55% of Britons were “concerned” or “very concerned” about germs on the outside of cans.

People were more worried about bacteria on canned products than signs of dirt (42%), or dust (32%). In terms of presentation, consumers were more concerned about bacteria than the deformation of a can (46%) or label discolouration (48%). The biggest worry was if canned food looked as if it had been opened (82%). 

The survey found a ‘clear correlation’ between age and concern, with the 18-24 year old category less likely to see bacteria as an issue (49%) and 55+ years old the most (63%).

“Older consumers are trying to remain active until later in life, but critically also realise that as they get older they are more prone to illness and want to take extra steps to preserve their health,” ​said Hughes.

“As retirement ages continue to be pushed back and seniors continue to defy stereotypes associated with their demographic group through the adventurous lifestyles they lead, they realise that extra care and attention needs to be given to their health.” 

As the population continues to age, this means the demand for antibacterial packaging will increase, added Hughes.

Are we really that bothered about bacteria?

In reality, consumers are unlikely to think too closely about bacteria when purchasing products, Hughes said. However, antibacterial packaging could be used by brands to emphasize safety and quality.

“There is an attitude-behaviour gap when it comes to consumers and bacteria and other sources on canned food,”​ he said. “Consumers may express a concern when probed –but in reality, few consumers will completely abstain from purchasing canned products because they are worried about the presence of bacteria.

“However, due to rising concerns about general wellbeing and awareness of bacteria, such packaging claims can be used to help reassure consumers and emphasize quality traits. Consumers will automatically think product packaging promoting such traits as being anti-bacterial means better quality.”

Related topics: R&D, Regulation and safety, Shelf life

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