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Catering for a changing today

The IOP ceo says changing demographics, consumer trends and environmental pressures are giving the sector plenty to think about

Effective packaging is a necessity for virtually every product. Without it product reputation will suffer and goodwill and sales will be lost. It is the principal way of ensuring safe delivery to the ultimate user in good condition at an economic cost.

Most definitions of packaging cover the basic principles of protection and preservation, containment, machine performance, communication, and convenience. However, as time goes by we must not forget the new influential factors which help affect the choice and use of packaging. These may be technological, demographic or legislative, or driven by consumer concerns, market opportunities and new competition.

Perhaps it is time to stop, think and apply a few other packaging criteria which are equally important in satisfying consumer need as we move towards a more caring, politically correct society. Three obvious examples are: sustainability, packaging minimisation and legibility.

Why is it that even now, 11 years after the Packaging Waste Directive’s introduction, many councils cannot provide adequate doorstep collection facilities to help recover domestic packaging? Why can’t we just make it illegal to landfill natural packaging materials (fibre, glass and metal) and put the bulk of the money into plastic recycling? We are the third worst country in the EC for landfill even after a decade of activity.

This leads nicely on to packaging minimisation. How do companies undertake this effectively when they have never been advised how to? It is thought approximately 5% can be pared from annual packaging costs for most small-to-medium sized companies through a simple audit. These savings are in weight, money or through increased operational efficiency.

Legislation is another key driver, whether via prescribed weights, ingredients or nutritional value. And what about the impact of the Discrimination and Disability Act? Either way we are expected to include more and more text on a pack, while ensuring it remains legible for the user. This is even more important following the recent recall involving Sudan 1.

Of course there is no legislation requiring the text to be read. Ironic really, given that brand owners spend so much time getting their logo, product name, and other design aspects and graphics correct. Perhaps this is another area where education and training may help designers and marketeers build brand loyalty through doing simple things well.