Gerber is changing the packaging of some of its baby food. Gone are the single-serving glass jars used since the 1940s to package applesauce, bananas and pears.
Now those three products will come in cube-shaped plastic containers, Gerber Products Co. officials were to announce today. The new containers will come in four-packs and have plastic lids that snap on and off with a foil seal to prevent tampering.
Three years of market research indicate that nearly 70% of consumers, for convenience reasons, would prefer to buy baby food packaged in plastic, said David Yates, senior vice president for Fremont-based Gerber. Plastic containers are easy to open, stack, store and carry, those surveyed said.
"We listen to parents every day, and we recognize that they need new, convenient feeding options," Yates said.
In February, the company started shipping all 16 flavors of its 4-ounce juices and juice-yogurt blends in plastic instead of glass. Since then, juice sales have risen about 20%, Yates said.
Most Gerber baby foods eventually will make the switch from glass to recyclable plastic, Yates said.
The conversion to plastic containers has been a major trend in the food industry for three or four years, said Matt Croson, a spokesman for the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute. The organization, based in Arlington, Va., represents 490 businesses in the United States and Canada that make packaging equipment used for all kinds of consumer products.
"It's something we've seen across all the food segments," Croson said. "What you're seeing is a shift to flexible packaging, whether it be a plastic container or some kind of a stand-up pouch used in confections and snack foods."
Still, for those who rely on the empty jars as a handy storage solution or a staple of kids' craft projects, the change is disappointing.
Eileen Chadis Wood, who teaches crafts at the United Jewish Community Center of the Virginia Peninsula, has seen the jars become everything from homemade snow globes to containers for macaroni art.
"We've covered them with clay. We've done decoupage. I've used the jar itself for sand art. . . . We've made them into spice jars. We even use it on occasion to make candles, and that wouldn't work with plastic," she said from her home in Newport News, Va.
"It's synonymous with all those projects. People just look at the jar and say, 'What are we going to make out of it?' "