Positioning your company for growth--the future of packaging

If someone asked you where packaging is headed over the next decade, you’d probably have a tough time answering.

The packaging scene is so dynamic, who can predict every twist and turn it’s likely to take?

But not knowing the answer to such a question doesn’t change one fundamental fact: Come what may, it’s your job to be ready. You’d better be prepared to be a leader and a winner.

Every other month for the past year, we’ve tried in this column to help prepare you, to be your guide to the future of packaging. We’ve delivered our insights on:

• how packaging enables new product development,
• the role of packaging at retail,
• the importance of sustainability,
• the need for open innovation, and
• the changing packaging professional.

Just look at the changes we’ve seen taking place in the packaging sector. Packaging’s move from being a cost center to being a profit center for organizations across the value chain is among those changes. And how about the growth of private label packaging? Who would ever have thought that private-label packs would commercialize consumer packaging benefits before branded packs? Look no further than Archer Farms’ innovative canisters for its line of ready-to-eat cereals or Archer Farms’ potato chip packs that have a reclosable zipper.

And what about the shelf impact of packaging, also known as the First Moment of Truth because this is where consumers have their first encounter with the product/package at the retail shelf? Today’s package designers have gotten so good at creating impact on the shelf that you have to wonder what can be tried next.

As if all of this weren’t quite enough, thank you very much, there’s more: sustainability, transparency, open innovation, global sourcing, safety and security, modeling and simulation, and outsourcing, to name a few.

We expect to see many more changes in packaging in the future, and they will happen quicker than ever before. One thing we know for sure is packaging is VISIBLE. As a result, it will continue to be a barometer for the future—just look back to the past and you will know what I mean. Remember the oil crisis, the garbage barge, sustainability, and now the floating plastic continent?

Do you know where packaging is going in the future? Does your company recognize the importance of packaging? Are you concerned about private label packaging? Retailers, do you know packaging will go and grow in the future?

How will legislation on packaging (carbon, water, waste) affect your company? How will new consumer aspirations and insights translate back to packaging solutions? The list goes on! Although packaging has a “seat at the table,” in some companies many are still out there trying to convince their management of the importance and VALUE of packaging.

So how do you get started? With a strategy and a vision for the future. Correction, make that a strategy based on a vision of several futures, since we don’t really know which future will emerge. Identified below is a simple list to help you get started (or continue) with your VALUE OF PACKAGING journey.

• Identify where and how packaging can provide key support to the company vision and mission
• Get involved in really understanding consumer aspirations and insights—then look to see how packaging can help. This will require considerable effort as new tools and processes will need to be developed
• Think about packaging more from a holistic and systems perspective
• Develop future scenarios that could provide the many possibilities where packaging could go
• Set boundaries and scope for your company and your organization
• Fully explore consumer, channel, and technology trends and best practices to help identify and build toward integrated packaging solutions
• Develop your strategy and set your goals—be sure to get senior management sponsorship and cross-functional support

Okay, the list goes on, but the items above should help you get started on your Future of Packaging journey.

Packaging is only going to get more important, so the time is now to get going on the development of your Future of Packaging strategy and roadmap! Remember, consumers buy products, not packages. But also remember that packaging is becoming a more critical product component. New solutions will range from simple to complex, and the consumer will still be the judge of success and failure!

Mike Richmond is president of Packaging & Technology Integrated Solutions (PTIS) and co-founder of Global Sustainability Solutions, Inc. (GSSI). He can be reached at mike@ptisglobal.com (www.ptisglobal.com).
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