Two parallel trends in packaging are converging at Pillsbury the Minneapolis-based unit of Grand Metropolitan of the U.K. Packaging professionals at the food company have taken a hit so much of their in-house work has been shifted to suppliers. At the same time the company is working hard with its suppliers to wring as much time as possible from the process that begins with product concept and ends with a new commercial product. Today some 20% of company sales and profits are derived from new products. In fact consumers are barraged with them. So reports Michael Kentala Pillsbury packaging sourcing leader. He and Lori Hamilton-Brown manager of flexible film sourcing spoke at Flex Pak '97 a spring conference sponsored by Schotland Business Research (Skillman NJ). For Pillsbury the importance of new products to revenue is reinforced by the fact the company introduced 180 new product offerings last year. However Kentala says the company that brings new products into the marketplace quickest usually enjoys greater sales and profits than those companies that create "me too" products. This he says results in a quicker payback on capital costs and development expenses. That's why it's important to beat the competititon into the marketplace and to take advantage of fickle consumer tastes. This has created a stronger focus on shortening product/package development cycles. Doing so Kentala says can lead to quicker new product introductions. Kentala told the Flex Pak audience how at a recent BrandWeek conference he was reminded that "at the core of every successful brand is a visual image that expresses the brand's identity." That visual image springs from a product's packaging says Kentala which is one of the few ways to reach 100% of a manufacturer's customers. As he put it "Packaging has power with consumers." Today Kentala says consumers have to choose from some 30 products on average in a store and make two-thirds of their decisions while in the store. On most shopping trips a consumer plans to buy 10 items but actually purchases 19-all in 22 minutes. "Packaging is clearly the difference not only to stimulate buying more products but to get them to buy our products" he stresses.