Being ahead of the Pack

Packaging may be a burden for companies whatever their size – however “packaging” is a broad term that will include anything from product packaging or transport packaging and be used for handling, transport, distribution, storage, retailing, consumption, disposal or recycling. Most of the time, there is not just one “packaging”, but several levels/layers of packaging with different functions, that can be described as primary (the packaging in contact with the product), secondary (containing several primary packages) or tertiary (i.e. for transport on a pallet). Within those levels, there are different elements that will need to be included, whether it is an instruction booklet, an aesthetic wrapping, warnings, up and down arrows, labels etc.
At each level, thought needs to be given to purpose, display, handling, transport and recycling.
 
Multi-disciplinary tool
Depending on their core activity, i.e. in the health, beauty or food sectors or more generally in the FMCG supply chain, companies will need to invest in complex and expensive wrapping materials as the role of packaging goes far beyond a mere protection to become a indispensable marketing tool as well as the means to meet with drastic health and safety regulations. Purposes may include:

  • Increasing shelf life of the product
  • Positioning the product vs. competition
  • Complying with industry sector’s regulations
  • Ergonomics (transport or handling)
  • Safeguarding (contamination, leaks)

 
To summarise, what would people expect from the packaging?
 

EXPECTATIONS VS PACKAGING
  R&D Compliance with legal and environmental regulations
 Cost-effective
 Protection vs. damage and theft
 Avoiding waste
 Recycling (revenue-generating)
  Marketing Product positioning
 Promotion
 Attractiveness
 Differentiation
 Information
 Sales-booster
 Innovation and trends
  Production Easy to handle (time-saving)
 Ergonomic
 Adapted to purpose
  Warehouse Easy to handle and store (time-saving)
 Strength
 Identification
  Logistics Strength
 Ergonomic (easy to handle)
  Retailer Easy to handle, identify and store
 Protection
 Attractiveness and differentiation
 Sales-booster
  Consumer Attractiveness
 Practicality
 Information
 Easy to open
 Environment-friendly
  After-Sales Clear information
 Easy tracking
 Legal protection

 
There is therefore a strong interaction between internal services and external providers, involving everyone in the choice and manufacturing of the right packaging: R&D, production, logistics, marketing and procurement and the delicate balance between standardisation (for logistics) and differentiation (for marketing) criteria... External providers would include designers, printers, raw material suppliers and manufacturers for instance.
This involvement of so many parties makes the decision and the buying process even more complex and justifies the multi-functional approach. Sometimes, the objectives of two parties involved may seem contradictory - for instance marketing considering a packaging at the same importance level as the product itself, for brand positioning or re-sale purposes.
A great package cannot sell a lousy product, but good packaging will help boost sales for a good product.
 
SME often lack the in-house expertise and in-depth market knowledge to establish specifications and procedures taking into account all the multiple roles of packaging and the objectives of each party involved in order to choose and buy the best packaging material and achieve the best value for money. They may have to rely too heavily on external suppliers, who will not have an in-depth knowledge of the company’s characteristics and objectives.
Experts will conduct an audit of needs and goals to achieve; they will help define technical, quantitative and qualitative specifications, before researching, evaluating and selecting the right service providers – and plan ahead to best circumvent raw material cost fluctuations.
They will not only monitor the various stages covered but also the technological developments on the market to provide the company with business intelligence, potential improvements and competitive advantages in the long run.

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