You can take the best product in the world, better functioning than all rivals, then place it in in the wrong packaging and it will languish on the shelves of supermarkets without a second glance from passers-by. Packaging has become the critical point of sale element for the vast majority of consumable consumer goods over the last 100 years. At the beginning of the twentieth century, nobody bought food in packaging. There were no supermarkets and most produce came from local farms without production lines. Things have changed and the best and most profitable businesses realise how important packaging is to their enterprise.
Functions of Packaging
Obviously, packaging is the primary way of protecting our goods from the time we manufacture them and transport them to the shop for sale through to the time a customer takes them home and uses them. Any kind of basic packaging designed to be secure, will provide this function at its most basic level. That is not where packaging ends though because if all businesses packaged their goods in the same way, there would be no way to distinguish which products come from good companies and which are not likely to fulfil customer needs or make them happy.
Packaging has gone much further than providing a service for customers; packaging is now a global industry that has the potential to make a business very successful or make it fail in a matter of weeks. Packaging is as much about company and product identity as it is about protecting products from contamination or damage. If you wanted to analyse the role of packaging, you could reference the need for supermarkets to work with industry standard sizes or within industry tolerances in order to stock certain products. In other words, if your product does not fit on the shelf with similar products, you are unlikely to find retailers happy to stock your line.
Loading and Transportation
Weight and load size are also essential elements of a popular product. If your finished goods are shipped around the country, they need to fit with existing process of shipment if you want to maintain a low distribution cost. The size and weight of a product can have huge implications and have been responsible for the discontinuation of lines from many supermarket shelves. It’s important to get things right at the design stage unless you plan on outsourcing to a UK Based Contract Packing company that already uses tried and tested designs.
Marketing and Building a Brand
It’s important to understand that building a brand identity is good, but the use of packaging to distinguish your product from competitors is a double edged sword. While it undoubtedly sets you apart from the crowd, it can also alienate you from stockists and distributers as well as customers who want their drinks to fit in their fridges and their cleaning products to sit nicely under their kitchen sink unit. You can gain an advantage by being unique, but you should not trade off convenience to achieve it. Packaging cannot become an obstacle to your sale.
Efficient Compliance and Quality Control
Food labelling is a prime example of how packaging is an essential part of the way we live in a modern society. Without the ability to mass print labels that not only comply with regulatory guidelines, but also allow businesses to trace products right the way through the production process, businesses would often incur great losses when problems are noticed at final inspection. Tracing products to specific times in production dramatically reduces the need to recall many more that were not affected.
Chris Hoole is a design and packaging consultant from a large power packaging provider based in the UK. He has been blogging about his experience in the industry for three years.