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Coca-Cola gets it, how about you?

Among the more noteworthy trends in packaged goods manufacturing over the past few years has been the push to give packaging a seat at the table.
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It’s largely a matter of moving away from a business view that sees packaging as a necessary evil and toward a realization that packaging is an essential arrow in the quiver when it comes to battling for business excellence.

If anyone needs a reminder of the accuracy of this “new” view, be sure to read marketing and design editor Jim George’s page 32 story on private-label packaging. As Jim astutely points out, the nation’s leading retailers are implementing sophisticated package design principles to increase market share for their own-brand product lines. Where once retailers had a “share of wallet mentality,” they’ve now evolved to a “share of mind” scenario, and “share of lifestyle” is on the horizon. There’s a lot at stake, too, when you consider that shoppers now spend about $17 of every $100 on private-label products. Packaging is driving it all.

Further evidence of packaging’s essential role arrived the other day in my Sunday paper, which contained a full-page ad from Coca-Cola. The Atlanta-based beverage giant noted that because Americans are realizing the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle, Coca-Cola is taking steps to help people achieve their lifestyle goals. The ad then proceeded to identify three specific steps Coke is taking, and two of the three—making information accessible and offering portion-control containers—are strategies that rest squarely on packaging. “Our packaging can be a powerful tool for information,” the ad goes on to say. There seems little doubt that the folks in Atlanta have given packaging a seat at the table.

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Packaging’s role is certain to become increasingly crucial as consumer goods manufacturers scour the horizon for ways to generate cost savings or sustainability—or both. The endlessly innovative spirit of the packaging profession is a guarantee that such developments will continue to tumble out of the R&D pipeline. Here’s one that crossed my laptop at about the same time I spotted the Coke ad: a conventional PET bottle that can be filled with boiling water yet not lose its rigidity or shape. Such technology could mean lighter heat-set bottles that are not only less costly but more sustainable, too, because of the source-reduction benefit they bring.

We can ask all kinds of questions about such a concept. What about migration of harmful chemicals from the plastic into the beverage? Is it suitable for two-stage reheat-and-blow, single-stage technology, or both? Are special resins required, or will garden-variety PET do the trick? Will these bottles interfere with the well-established PET recycling stream? But at some level, you have to admire the ingenuity that made such a development possible. If you want to watch a video demonstrating the enhanced performance characteristics of this remarkable bottle, visit www.a4bs.be. Or hear its developer, Johan Robbrecht, director of Belgium’s Alliance for Business Solutions, talk about the container technology at Nova-Pack 2010 next February (www.schotland.com).

Finally, before we leave this topic of packaging’s importance, let me steer you to a humorous YouTube reminder that comes to us from the French Plastic and Flexible Packaging Association. It’s one way of illustrating what a world without packaging would be like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDtl8v5f77k

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