Unilever has made some of the most significant strides among major consumer packaged goods companies in reducing packaging. The changes haven’t come overnight but rather at a steady clip.
Innovative package design is front and center in the company’s effort to reduce package materials and its carbon footprint on the environment. Many of the ideas take root at Unilever’s Visual Branding Center, which operates under a consumer-centric design culture. Design teams focus on “differentiating technology” in four areas: structural design, materials design, decoration, and sustainable design.
The objective of the Visual Branding Center is to form ideas to address not only reduced packaging, but also how to achieve it while keeping each brand on message to consumers.
Such thinking was the inspiration behind Unilever’s introduction of its Rexona brand deodorant in the Philippines. The 50-ml package features a distinctive upside-down roll-on design. The molding, assembly, and packaging processes were streamlined and energy efficiency improved. As a result, the new package weighs 8% less and uses 1,000 fewer tons of plastic per year than the previous package. In addition, the time needed to make the cap was reduced by 34% and the time required to make the bottle trimmed by 8%, thereby leading to significant energy savings.
Through package-design projects for Rexona and other brands, Unilever has found that rethinking design and manufacturing processes, with the input of R&D, can bring environmental and business benefits, as well as packaging that benefits the consumer—a win-win-win.