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Consumer packaging expectations rising

Laura Bix, PhD., is an assistant professor at Michigan State University’s School of Packaging. Her appointment dictates teaching, outreach, and research in medical packaging.

PW: What are the most critical issues for packagers in the next year or two?

Bix: The major trend in packaging is that there are increasing expectations. Package designs must be carefully considered so that they are easily filled, handled, shipped, and stored. Line speeds, cube efficiencies, inventory control, etc., must be maximized without imposing unnecessary burdens on workers.

PW: Can you provide examples of packages that meet these expectations?

Bix: Consumers expect their purchases to be safe, genuine (no counterfeits, please) and easy to use and store. Products must arrive at their final destination undamaged with a significant shelf life. Additionally, consumers want products that can be readily identified with directions that guide them to the proper use of the package contents in a language(s) that they can easily read and understand. I see tremendous potential for new innovation and creative thinking in packaging as marketing begins to give it more credence in the marketing mix. Dutch Boy’s paint container and Dean’s Milk Chug bottle suggest that packaging can provide a real competitive advantage when companies are willing to take some risks and innovate.

PW: What are the most vexing challenges involved in successful validation of packaging equipment, materials, and processes?

Bix: That there is no right or wrong answer regarding the "proper" way to validate. Manufacturers must choose a plan that works for them, and prepare to defend that plan to the Food and Drug Administration. The appropriate sample size, and sampling plan depends on the risk aversion of the company, the history of the product, the risk associated with a failure, the likelihood of a problem, and cost. Decisions must be made and defended.

—Jim Butschli

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