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Q&A: The New State Of Packaging

Wed, 04/18/2012 - 9:30am
Sneha J. Shah, Global Packaging Innovation Manager, Avery Dennison Label and Packaging Materials

This article originally ran in the April 2012 issue of Food Manufacturing.

As consumers continue seeking consumer packaged goods with reduced and increasingly environmentally friendly packaging, food manufacturers have sought to develop packaging to meet these demands. Consumers, however, are increasingly seeking convenience packaging, and packaging suppliers are working to assist processors in meeting these new challenges while keeping environmental concerns in mind. Sneh Shah from Avery Dennison spoke with Food Manufacturing about the changing role of packaging in food production.

Q: How have packaging concerns changed over the past decade? What are food manufacturers thinking about now that wasn't top-of-mind before?

A: Packaging concerns have changed in several ways over the past decade. I see three key areas that are top-of-mind, including:

  1. Sustainability and the impact packaging has on the overall business model for food manufacturers. Consumers and regulators are changing their perception and behaviors on this topic at a rapid pace. These changes will certainly impact the way companies do business and how packaging costs are factored into the business model. Sustainability is a critical component of corporate social responsibility, and the environmental impact of running a business expands across all areas of a corporation. While packaging has the most tangible impact in the minds of consumers, corporations are setting goals across various functions.
  2. Food manufacturers are required to balance the traditional functionalities of packaging with food safety concerns, which are rapidly spreading across the globe. Improved processes and controls are being developed to extend beyond raw materials into the packaging space. Protecting products that are part of global supply chains to enable manufacturers to enter new market territories is a critical business strategy.
  3. Design and functionality have always been at the forefront for innovative packaging. Now manufacturers and brand owners will need to incorporate a sense of value as they emerge from the recession.

Q: What are some new packaging challenges with which food manufacturers are seeking help?

A: While innovation is at the forefront of packaging, many customers and consumers are still looking for the biggest bang for their buck coming out of the recession. Customers and consumers are extremely conscious of maintaining a "tightening of the belt" policy and have changed shopping habits with regard to cost effectiveness, while continuing to add value. Meeting those demands can be difficult for food manufacturers, as a clear value proposition is required.
Another challenge food manufacturers are faced with is new regulations involving rigid packaging recycling. These laws and regulations will require changes to current packaging materials and technologies.

Q: How can food processors reduce packaging and waste without negatively impacting the branding of their products?

A: Food processors must truly understanding the values held by consumers of their brand. If you can continue to deliver what your brand stands for and improve the environmental footprint, you will win with CPGs and their customers. Most customers and consumers will not compromise on the product attributes they value most, but want to make the right decision for the environment where they can. It is important for a company to practice social responsibility and continue to strive to make changes to improve its environmental footprint.
It is also important to educate consumers. There is a lot of information out in the marketplace and consumers are influenced in various ways. Successful companies make positive changes and educate their loyal consumers while doing it. Strong partnerships are also critical to making positive changes for reducing packaging waste. You need to think of your entire supply chain, and partner with your suppliers and also your consumers as a way to help drive change.

Q: How often should packaged goods processors consider changing packaging? Where is the "happy medium" between a stale package design and a design that is updated so often that consumers have no shelf recognition of the product?

A: There are metrics to discover how well you are connecting with your key consumers and how relevant you are to that market segment. It is important to be in constant communication with your loyal consumers and avoid being stagnant in a fast-changing environment. You need to consider your key brand attributes (usually never stray from those) and how you want to continue that connection with consumers. This along with trends in the marketplace, competitive action, and new market segments should drive the strategy behind packaging design. Often, packaging designers create an evolutionary plan for a package design and structure to continue to evolve the brand without alienating loyal consumers.

Q: What do you think will be the next hot packaging trend for 2012?

A: Interactive packaging — consumers today are connected 24/7. Packaging will play a critical role in connecting brands to consumers in real time.
 
Q: Tell me a little about Inspiration Studio. How can it help brand owners looking to get more from their packaging?

A: The Inspiration Studio by Avery Dennison Label and Packaging Materials is an online tool designed to help packaging designers, as well as brand owners and brand managers, explore compelling ways pressure-sensitive labeling can help them get more from their packaging and decoration strategies. The Studio was developed to educate the market with relevant content, trends and research that highlights label materials and technology. The portal offers insights on how national and private-label brands have and can enhance their shelf appeal in North American and global markets. Content categories include Trends, Innovation and Sustainability. Each category includes supporting articles and research highlighting the latest trends in package design, strategies for creating shelf differentiation and sustainability efforts. Site elements include:

  • Shelf Appeal Gallery — a design gallery of creative product packaging solutions, including pressure-sensitive labels, that have enhanced a brand’s image and increased customer attention at the shelf.
  • Brand Experience Contest — a global package design competition that challenged designers to deliver a unique brand identity from bottle to shelf.
  • Expert Insights — articles, presentations and blogs by Avery Dennison branding experts, technology leaders and packaging industry influencers. The section includes an “Ask the Experts” link, where visitors can pose questions.
  • White Papers — features consumer label and packaging design insights and preferences from different market segments.
  • Success Stories — a series of pressure-sensitive labeling success stories from brands across the globe.
  • RSS feed to the “Top 10 Package Designs” on TheDieline.com — a leading package design website.
  • Industry news — with related links.

Q: What about shelf-life extension? Can a reduction in packaging affect a reduction in shelf-life, and if so, what should brand owners do to combat this loss of shelf-life?

A: This depends on the functionality of the materials used. By leveraging materials that can provide similar or improved functionality at lighter weights, brand owners can better protect the quality of the product. It is also possible to reduce components within the package to reduce packaging, while maintaining the functional components. It does not always have to be a trade-off with the right material technology.

Q: What new packaging technologies are available on the marketplace to increase shelf-life?

A: There are functional additives to packaging materials that can increase barrier properties, along with new materials that slow the affects of oxygen, light and moisture on a product.Various materials exist in the marketplace that can be integrated into existing packaging materials to improve product quality or functionality. Technologies such as metalized films have evolved over the years to deliver improved barrier properties. Also, processing technologies, such as modified atmosphere packaging, pasteurization, and retort packaging all increase the shelf-life of packaged foods.

Interview by Krystal Gabert, Editor

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