When it comes to packaging, consumers care more about ease-of-use than design or a realistic image of the product, according to a just-released report from Packaged Facts.

The report, "Food and Beverage Packaging Trends in the U.S.," shows that the food packaging features most important to consumers confirm the importance of product convenience. Resealability and easy to open and close head up the list of attributes most valued by consumers, followed by the ability to maintain freshness.

Less important features include attractiveness of design and, perhaps more surprisingly, a realistic image of the product. Only 20 percent indicated that the ability to microwave in the package is especially important, although that's an increasingly popular package feature for frozen foods.

With beverages, consumers prize convenience-oriented features as well, including packaging that is easy to open and close, easy to pour and serve, and easy to hold. Packaging that makes it eat to eat or drink on the go ranked further down on the list, despite the popularity of single serve and other convenient beverage formats. 

Product freshness again ranks high and is especially important in milk, juices, and ground coffee. Consumers also ranked environmentally friendly packaging as fairly high in importance.

While consumers generally aren't dissatisfied with the packaging options available to them, innovative packaging is an added value that can determine product format or brand choice, especially since consumers aren't totally happy with packaging choices, either, says David Sprinkle, publisher of Packaged Facts.

Paradoxically, they don't necessarily think highly of manufacturers' packaging efforts. Packaged Facts survey data shows that 60 percent of consumers strongly or somewhat agree that manufacturers often make insignificant packaging changes. In addition, 45 percent think lighter weight or less bulky packaging is important.