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Packaging: the new enabler

Our PTIS group of packaging thought leaders from across the value chain and across packaging functions is happy to be contributing to Packaging World on a regular basis.

In this first appearance of our new column, I’d like to talk about how packaging has become, for most packaged goods companies, the indispensable enabler of the future.
For years, we’ve recognized that packaging is important (protection, containment, communication), but over the last five to 10 years, packaging has moved from second fiddle to getting “a seat at the table.” Consider just four of the reasons why (trust me, there are more):
Purchases are driven by packaging
Consumers buy products, not packages. But whether they know it consciously or not, the “product” they buy is an amalgamation of many things: packaging, prior experiences, brand equity, services, positive and negative emotional memories, and sustainability elements. Consumers are not capable of articulating these elements or connections, but all are part of their five-second purchase decision, and packaging is a critical factor. It helps the product provide a better consumer or shopper solution. For example, a cut-out in a frozen pizza box signals freshness and trust to the consumer. Similarly, a flexible film package of snacks marked “only 100 calories” signals enhanced healthfulness.
Packaging is a retail advertising medium
The majority of product purchases are made in the store, and more than 40% are impulse buys. Because of this, the package is critical in product selection. Most companies still struggle to understand the relationship between product and package. Many companies see the package as a cost center and look to put new products in the same old package with nothing new except the graphics. They want to fill capacity on the existing production line (supply chain thinking), and frankly, packaging is an afterthought. A few leading-edge brand owners have developed corporate-level packaging strategies, but they are still somewhat rare.
New technology spurs innovation
We will continue to see new science and technology developed to support new package development. Newly developed packages, of course, bring new value solutions.
Examples include self-heating and self-chilling containers, nanotechnology, RFID tags and other new auto ID technologies (2-D bar codes to allow consumers to interact with packages at shelf-point), color shifting inks, new forming technologies, new machinery development, etc. Look to see new growth in science and technology in packaging to help enable packaging and product development. As mentioned previously, look to sustainability to drive new innovations across the packaging industry.
Consumers search for value
Consumers are looking for value. In some cases, “good enough” will do. The value being sought can be delivered without high costs. In other cases, where the value being sought frames itself in personal or emotional terms, costs may run higher. But in either case, the value being sought must be clear to the consumer not only at point of purchase but also throughout the usage experience.
Consider, for example, private-label frozen vegetables in a flexible film bag. This is value of the low-cost, good-enough variety. Elsewhere on the value continuum, we have a frozen microwaveable meal solution in an eat-in, semi-rigid package, or foil decoration on high-performance golf ball packaging, or facial tissue in a decorative oval dispenser, or single-serve flavored milk in plastic bottles, or squared-off plastic paint containers—here, the packaging can provide clues or reasons to believe that the product is different and of higher personal value. The key point is that the packaging needs to represent the product and brand quality. The critical package features, attributes, and benefits support the overall value of the product. Unfortunately, many companies still do not recognize the true value of packaging, and the packaging profession does a poor job of communicating the real value.
We thank Packaging World for the opportunity to allow PTIS/GSSI to bring new thinking and new opportunities to packaging leaders globally. Look for our Associate Team to provide some exciting and thought-provoking topics in the coming months.
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