Playing the packaging game - pressures on packaging

Packaging Professional magazine
15 Sep 2008
A water soluble sachet containing a unit dose of product.

Increasing pressures are being placed on brands to adapt packaging for changing economic, market and environmental factors. David Edwards, Managing Director of packaging solutions company Edwards Innovations Ltd, Stevenage, UK, presents some options.

Over the past two decades the leisure industry has grown significantly, sustained by new technology and product branding in a highly competitive, segmented marketplace. However, now the pressures on spending with escalating fuel and food prices and falling house prices mean that consumers will focus on value for money. Recently, UK bank the Alliance and Leicester revealed that almost 75% of Britons have made some financial cut back. Leisure spending has decreased with pubs, restaurants and hotels reporting lower revenues.

In this context, brand owners will have to fight, not only to maintain their share of the market, but against reduced disposable income and uncertainty.

The only way forward is with creative marketing, which needs to focus on more composite packaging presentations processes, or a combination of both. Marketers need to provide more than an attractive pack.

Decanting solutions

Children love gadgets and watching things happen. Therefore, instead of presenting bubble bath type products in conventional packaging, the product could be packed into water soluble films or mouldings that would release the product before the child’s eyes. Such packaging is novel and elicits the ‘wow’ factor and a greater market share.

This concept works across other sectors releasing aromatherapy oils in a more controlled manner. Within gardening, lawn foods could be dosed in units instead of decanting a measured amount from a polythene bag inside a box. Polyvinyl alcohol film sachets in a biodegradable plastic internal bag converts the box into a novel dispenser. Such packaging will provide brand leaders with a product that stands out from the competition as being functional, and environmentally responsible.

The sports nutrition market covers food supplements for body building in the form of protein powders and uses large, high density polyethylene containers to hold them. These typically weigh around 5.15lbs and come with plastic measuring scoops. But measuring out powder into a mixing vessel and adding water is often time consuming. This is another opportunity to provide the consumer with a more attractive way of decanting the product, which could justify a price premium or, at the least, provide greater appeal to the customer. Laminated pouches for each dose could be arranged in a cardboard dispenser pack allowing for increased graphics and enhanced visual appearance.

Adopting change

Brand owners need to look to technologists and marketing departments to re-invent what they offer to customers. One of the most effective ways of achieving this is to look beyond their own industry and study how goods are packaged in totally unrelated areas.

An example of this occurred 20 years ago when the farm chemical industry was under threat due to health and safety legislation. The industry responded by developing safer packaging with a simple unit dose system, allowing hazardous chemicals to be dissolved in the farmers’ spray tanks without the risk of operator exposure. Since this success, a number of companies in different fields considered packaging their products this way. Unilever’s Persil capsule, which uses an elegant water-soluble capsule, was launched using the same concept, providing the brand leader with the advantage of convenience and a marketing appeal. The rest of the industry followed quickly, and two decades on, the principle is appearing all over the world. The same radical approach is necessary for the leisure industry.

Slow transition

However, most brand owners exist in a very well structured organisation where the buzzword ‘innovation’ appears in the company mission statement. Sadly, I believe in such organisations any form of major change will often be met with resistance because people in these environments can feel threatened.

This can be addressed by arranging brain-storming sessions with the relevant parties and representation from marketing, packaging and at least one senior member of the business. The all important ingredient is an objective individual who is not part of the company and can orchestrate the session. If this does not happen, any flow of lateral thinking will be limited. An outsider will encourage alternative thought processes and by making everyone in the room feel a sense of contribution and ownership, the way forward will be met by less resistance.

Since writing this article, the HSBC bank, UK, has announced cut backs on lending to the leisure industry as firms struggle amid a sharp consumer slow down. The survivors of the industry will be those that react now to radical packaging innovation.

Further information:

Edwards Innovations Ltd