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Retail-Ready Packaging is hotting up

Retail-Ready Packaging (RRP) is on the rise. Its greatest penetration is in England and France, while North America is just beginning to catch on.

And just what is RRP? The best answer to that question is found in the story on page 48. But for our purposes here, let’s say it’s an approach to secondary packaging that is designed with all supply chain stakeholders in mind. In other words, if it

• makes the CPG company happy because it maximizes brand impact
• makes the retail category manager happy because it fits harmoniously with competitive products and gives the whole category a pleasing appearance
• makes shoppers happy because it’s easy to identify the desired product variant and put it in a shopping cart
• but makes store staff miserable because it causes confusion in the back room and consumes too much time to open, then it’s not a successful example of RRP. Or, as James Tupper of IGD puts it in our page 48 story, it’s not “fit for purpose.”

Why is RRP growing? Primarily because retailers are more focused than ever on improved operating efficiencies as part of a broader cost focus. They don’t want store staff “decanting” tins of green beans from an RSC and placing them one at a time on a shelf. They want 12 or 16 or 20 cans to be packed in a single merchandising unit that store staff can quickly find in the back room and place on a shelf in one go.

Retailers lusting after greater efficiencies isn’t the only driver behind RRP. As Tupper points out, in some regions of the world it’s the CPG companies that are pushing RRP rather than the retailers pulling it through. A prime example, he says, is Italy. There, because no retailers are championing RRP the way they are in the UK, multinational CPG companies are gravitating toward it because they see it as a way of minimizing stockouts and improving shelf impact in the store.

Here in the U.S. you would expect that Wal-Mart would be driving RRP pretty hard, and in fact the Bentonville boys have been sending signals that RRP is indeed a priority. Kroger has done the same. The problem—or I should say one of the problems—is that Kroger and Walmart are asking for different things. That makes life difficult for CPG companies. Dan Dominski, director of packaging at Del Monte Foods in Walnut Creek, CA, put it to me this way.

“Nobody has put together a concrete specification. We’d like to see some coherence. We also find ourselves wondering if we do go to a retail-ready packaging format, will the people in the stores actually use it? We’ve already had some experience along these lines where we went to a perforated shipper that was supposed to let the store staff quickly remove the top and place the 12-count merchandising unit on a shelf. But in many cases they bypassed the perf, ripped open the case as if it were an ordinary corrugated shipper, and removed the primary packs one at a time.”

If you’ve been wanting to get up to speed on RRP, you’ll be happy to know that the story on page 48 is the first of three on that subject we’ll be publishing in upcoming issues. You’ll also want to check out an on-demand Webinar called “The latest trends in RRP.” Moderated by Ben Miyares, managing director at Packaging Management Institute, it features Stew Armstrong, package engineering manager at Great Lakes Cheese Co., who will share some of his firm’s experiences in the RRP game. Two more quick notes, though both on completely different subjects. First, congratulations to the winners of this year’s Greener Package Awards (see cover story that begins on page 36).

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that there’s still time to cast your vote in our Leadership in Packaging program. Cast your vote by category at

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