Florence, Ky. — Millennials are a major force pushing food. They want natural. They want local. They want “real food.” Authentic experiences. And that is pushing trends in packaging, said an official of a Swiss maker of in-mold labeling, molds and automation for injection molding.
Millennials distrust overly processed, “corporate food,” said Taras Konowal, business development for North America for H. Müller Fabrique de Moules SA of Conthey, Switzerland.
They don't like Kraft macaroni and cheese. Fish sticks? Nope.
“With the big brands, what's in there, they're afraid, is not real food,” Konowal said in a presentation during KraussMaffei Corp.'s open house May 19 in Florence. They sound off on social media. “As a brand, you need to be aware of who you are and how you are perceived.”
And millennials — people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s — have major buying clout.
What does that mean for rigid packaging? Konowal said millennials favor more-regional suppliers. Millennials like to try different ethnic flavors. And they want “micro-regional” foods, Konawal said, pointing to the rise of microbreweries.
They want to see what they're eating. That's a big reason why clarified resins, like PET, keep gaining favor, he said.
The millennial movement means there's room for smaller plastic packaging manufacturers — even in a sector where big players gobble each other up, Konowal said. That puts a premium on shorter runs, quicker changeovers, smaller mold cavitation and very good flexibility, he told KM open house attendees.
H. Müller last fall introduced the FlexStar IML automation system, using a Staubli six-axis articulating robot, after spending about a year studying robots for in-mold labeling. FlexStar works on injection molding presses with a clamping force up to 350 tons.
H. Müller buys off-the-shelf Staubli robots and customizes the FlexStar with end-of-arm tooling, and linked to Müller's standard controller and operator interface.
“This is, by far, the biggest product for us,” Konowal said.
Thank the millennials.