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Kodak rocks the packaging boat

When Kodak brought its patented MEMS print head to market, predictable packaging just would not do. A stand-up pouch stands out on store shelves.
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“We couldn’t bring this new print cartridge to the retail aisle in a package that looked like everyone else’s. The package had to be disruptive.”

That’s how Kodak’s Shannon Monroe, worldwide consumables product marketing manager, describes the stand-up pouch used for the ink-jet print cartridges that complement Kodak’s new Easy-Share All-in-One printers. The packaging isn’t the only thing that’s on the disruptive side. Kodak’s development of a new type of MEMS print head (see sidebar) that is separate from the cartridge itself lets Kodak price its cartridges at $9.99 for black and $14.99 for color. That’s about half the price consumers routinely pay for comparable cartridges, says Monroe.

The stand-up pouches are provided by Printpack, which prints the graphics, laminates the three-layer structure from which pouches are made, and also makes the Doyen-style pouches. The outer layer of 48-ga polyester is reverse-printed flexographically in up to six colors. Extrusion lamination marries this printed substrate to a central layer of 48-ga metallized polyester. Completing the three-layer sandwich is a sealant film that’s adhesive-laminated to the metallized polyester. The finished bags are shipped out in boxes.

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One SKU in the line, the Photo Value Pack, includes not only a color ink cartridge, but also 180 sheets of Kodak photo paper. This item comes not in a bottom-gusseted Doyen-style pouch but rather in a flat-bottom pouch.

Contract packagers in the U.S. handle the packaging for Kodak. The cartridges themselves arrive wrapped in a clear barrier film, packed by Kodak manufacturers in Asia. Operators in the U.S. manually load the cartridges in one of four pouch formats, and then the pouches are heat sealed shut on a band sealer.

Kodak packaging engineer Stephen Warren says the development of the unusual package wasn’t exactly a slam dunk. He also says it required a collaborative effort involving Kodak people with brand, marketing, and packaging responsibilities.

“We went into retail outlets to better understand where our product would be displayed,” says Warren. “We wanted to understand the package footprint and the parameters we needed to stay within. Because the package is designed for shelf, rack, or pusher-arm display, there was a lot to consider as we put this together. All of these considerations influenced the style of the pouch and the materials chosen.”

Selecting Printpack as the pouch supplier was driven by at least two key factors.

“We’d dealt with them in the past and knew of their expertise in reverse printing,” says Warren. “We also liked the idea that they were vertically integrated enough to handle printing, laminating, and pouch making all in one place.”
One slightly unusual strategy behind the graphics printed by Printpack is the inclusion of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

“We had a lot of conversations about that,” says Warren, “largely because it’s usually the retailers that make the final decision about price points.” But in the end, it was deemed a good idea. Says Monroe, “ It helps reinforce the value proposition that is so fundamental to this whole program.”

Source reduction was not a key objective as the packaging was designed, though some advantages along these lines probably accrue simply because flexible packaging typically contributes minimally where solid waste is concerned.
As for price, Monroe simply indicates that the pouch is “within Kodak’s parameters.”

Both the Easy-Share All-in-One printer and its replacement cartridges have been on store shelves since February of 2007. Both retailers and consumers have responded positively, says Monroe. The cartridge is still the only product in its category that comes in a stand-up pouch rather than a folding carton or a rigid thermoform.

“Our goal was to make the package easy to spot when the consumer walks down that cartridge aisle in search of a replacement,” says Monroe. “This package format, with its bright colors and straightforward color coding to identify a black vs a color cartridge, accomplishes our goal.”

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