We at PTIS see packaging having a significant impact on business directions in 2012. The idea that packaging is a strategic business function is gaining credence among companies. Here are six significant trends and drivers we believe will shape packaging agendas in the coming year.
1. Holistic design drives more packaging answers
Package design moves up the corporate ladder as management sees how its perspective answers problems. But it takes a big-picture perspective to deliver. Programs like the PTIS Holistic Design™ approach go well beyond graphics and even structure to deliver results. Consider Plantronics Inc., maker of electronic items such as headsets. Management moved packaging responsibilities from marketing to design to get new perspectives in the face of complaints about excessive packaging. Universal design is making its way into design briefs as consumer packaged goods companies increasingly see where current designs fail to meet needs of aging populations. That's especially true in industrialized countries, but it is also impacting some developing countries.
2. Private brands go upscale with packaging
The Great Recession pushed private-label market share up 2% in 2010, and the average market share now is almost 22% across all categories.
Expect retailers to bring more high-margin items into the private brand mix. Packaging is a key tool in adding convenience and in communicating upscale positioning and value. Watch a private label leader like Walgreens. It is developing its "Nice" line of about 300 items of grocery and household products. It is aiming at a coherent design strategy to define the line.
3. Consumers expand their thinking on "green" packaging
Consumer thinking is quickly moving beyond "recyclable" as the synonym for eco-friendly or green. We've seen that shift in attitudes reflected in consumer research from multiple sources: it is uncanny that different researchers are coming to the same conclusions. More consumers are basing buying decisions on what they perceive to be excessive packaging. Yet, they do that only after their convenience and functional expectations are met. Expect more efforts to find new, more sustainable alternatives to clamshells. Consumers perceive them to be over packaging, and they engender "wrap rage." Be ready to explain how your sustainable solutions meet consumer eco expectations. If they don't "get it," they will buy something they do "get."
4. Data savvy consumers redefine value
The newest decision-making instant is the "Zero Moment of Truth," the time before the shopping trip when consumers research products. Consumers rely more on what they learn on the Internet to shape buying decisions. Some take an hour on-line before a shopping trip. Packaging is the second-most frequent source of quick code scans, only behind newspapers and magazines in frequency. Be ready to put codes on packages and link packaging to Web-marketing initiatives. Convenient packaging has to function intuitively. If not, the consumer puts their frustration into the buying decision for the next trip.
5. Expect more emphasis on open innovation programs as the route to manage innovation
The challenge in 2012 is not finding new technology to address challenges. In most cases, it is finding answers in existing or emerging technologies. Tailor open innovation programs to fit your specific needs by monitoring those technologies that can work for you. Advances in technology will make more bioresins available. As an example, Arizona State University researchers are working on ways to make styrene from engineered microorganisms.
6. Look for a "Chief Packaging Officer" to pop up on some company's org chart
That person may not come from a traditional packaging background. It will be someone with the grasp of a big-picture approach to products and packaging. Someone who can sell ideas to management, too. People with traditional packaging background could be good candidates, if they expand their skill set to embrace management and add a little creative salesmanship.