External Influences Will Impact Product Packaging

Consider this recent headline

“Tesco pledges to cut packaging by a quarter…”

Supermarket giant Tesco today pledged to reduce by a quarter the amount of packaging used in both branded and own-label products within the next three years.

Uh-Oh! Are you worried? Well, you should be. External influences can shape the face of packaging materials for now and in the future. Many times this will be totally outside of your control. Legislation could be enacted; there could be a product security scare or another incident like 911. All of which could dramatically shape the success –and failure– of your product and its packaging.

Each January I write a packaging trends piece. It’s about where the packaging industry is going now and in the future and what external influences will drive that change. Trends are an important predictor of where the market is moving. Trends are more long lived than fads. Trends will influence product development for several years and sometimes they will become mainstream.

After reading the headline above, what’s your gut reaction? It better be that this is a serious trend. Not only is the reduction of packaging materials big news so is the use of environmentally friendly materials. What’s driving this trend? It is big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Tesco and more recently consumers.

Read this headline too

BENTONVILLE, Ark., – Today at the second annual Sustainable Packaging Exposition, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) released the initial results of its Packaging Scorecard. The scorecard, which was officially unveiled at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2006 and launched on February 1, 2007, evaluates Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club suppliers on the sustainability of their packaging and offers suggestions for improvement. The results from the first month of operation show active use of the scorecard and a strong interest from product suppliers to make their packaging more sustainable. The scorecard implementation is Wal-Mart’s next step in moving toward achieving a five percent reduction in packaging by 2013.

Are you getting the message loud and clear? It is plain and simple: material reduction and more sustainable packaging materials. If you are not considering this as part of your long term packaging plan, then you might have problems down the road. “Green” is here to stay this time.

Besides the green movement what other factors can influence product packaging? What about product ezbox security and integrity? Given the rash of recent product recalls (for a variety of reasons) product security has become paramount. States could enact legislation or at the very least mandate that your product packaging has a tracking device. Now this is not the same as RFID; similar but not the same. The latest devices allow you to track products all the way back to the field it was grown in and it provides a track back for every step along the way.

Some retailers may mandate that RFID be included on all product packaging. Will you be prepared? RFID interestingly is a two edged sword. There are some watchdog groups the feel that the RFID mandate is being taken too far. That is tracking what you buy, how you use it and ultimately how you dispose of it.

Recently, a major outlet demanded that all their vendors not only source their products but their packaging not from China but from the US. Trends like this are hard to ignore. If you are outsourcing your product and your packaging or even just the packaging to another country, do you have plan B in place should this happen to you?

It’s your product and you will need to package it properly while being careful to keep all the external influences in mind. The warning signs are out there. Its up to you to look for them and anticipate the possible influence on your product.

Considering that the cost of designing an average retail package is $7,000, what’s $70 to get it right (or risk spending thousands more to fix it later)!

So if you are seeking packaging expertise, consultation, assistance, design or RFPs, or just plain help,

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