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Can you benefit from changing packaging drivers?

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As IoPP put together its Packaging Summit ’09, we asked thought leaders among our members about the topics they see as “hot buttons.” Here are core trends:

1. Innovation and sustainability remain priorities, but drivers are changing, and bosses don’t always ‘buy in.’—Innovation remains a priority, but it has to be business-driven. Consumer packaged goods companies want to know how innovation can positively influence consumers to buy a company’s products. Suppliers focus on how innovation can answer the needs of packagers.

Any package development project is an exercise in balancing different drivers. In the past decade, marketing priorities—shelf impact and consumer convenience—have been high on the list. People we talked with say they stay high, but the emphasis now includes a harder look at the balance with costs.

Margin management has moved up the ladder as a driver. General Mills got a lot of ink in the business press last fall with its emphasis on holistic margin management and how that had an impact on packaging. Just one example—reducing the number of lids on salsa jars from 17 to five helps the bottom line. Expect more of this kind of thinking in companies with a “big picture” perspective. It’s not just price, it is the systems cost of packaging components.

Both sustainability and innovation remain priorities, but many people now see sustainability with greater weight than innovation. But both have to deliver cost savings. If an initiative is innovative or sustainable, but doesn’t deliver cost savings, it’s much harder to push it up the management chain.

2. Cost cutting avenues aren’t new, but you have to bring them into focus.—Among the high-visibility avenues for cost savings are logistics and transport packaging. They aren’t new, but they come up more frequently than in the past. One packaging manager says his company’s packaging development process now goes from the “product up and trailer down.”

Packagers have to sell ideas to their management, and the way to do that is with numbers. What are the dollar savings? You and I, as packaging professionals, know there are savings in getting one more layer on a pallet, but management needs dollar signs attached to that.

We also heard packaging pros suggest looking at local suppliers. Sometimes, shipping costs may be more than the value of the packaging. Check local resources.

3. Packagers want to see more innovations in materials.—We’re not talking about new “whiz-bang” materials, we’re talking about innovative ways of tweaking and adapting materials to specific uses.

The expanding range of options in RPET is one area of material innovation. Some packagers see benefits in the ability to tailor RPET to different processing conditions that require less energy as a significant material-related cost savings.

The idea of innovations in materials also includes printing. Consider silver inks to replace foil or metalizing at a lower cost; inks let all the decorating happen in one pass. Packagers see potential savings in coextruded films. And, we’ve heard about nanotechnology for years; some packagers think they may have a bigger role once the technical data on packaging materials utilizing them becomes more available.

4. Move package development beyond the status quo.—“Packaging engineers and suppliers need to step up to a new level of challenging the status quo. They need to use blank-sheet-of-paper thinking.” That’s what one packaging professional says.

Here’s an example of status quo thinking that needs to change: Throwing out ideas early in the development process because they “cost too much.” That takes the total cost concept out of the equation and stifles the innovation process.

Software is having a greater impact on innovation’s direction. For example, ArtiosCAD is setting standards for corrugated and folding carton design (and some carton designers would like the standards open to more professional comment). And programs like the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s COMPASS (Comparative Packaging Assessment) are setting standards for sustainable packaging design. The IoPP Packaging Summit has a bonus session with a hands-on use of COMPASS.

Look for discussions on all these topics at IoPP’s Packaging Summit ’09, May 19-20 in the Chicago area (

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