The BIG Packaging Debate
‘Packaging: the messenger or the message?’
Thursday 7th October 5.15pm
Innovative packaging protects goods in transit. It keeps produce fresher for longer. It extends shelf-life over months and even years. It facilitates the way in which some products can be accurately and efficiently dispensed. It safeguards against counterfeiting and tampering. It tells us what we’re eating, where it came from, why it’s good (or sometimes less so) for us, and when it’s past its sell-by date. It can also act as the single most important communicator of brand values – and is so much a part of the overall proposition that it is indivisible from the product itself.
Try this simple test. Think of a particular product and what do you see? For example: Perrier... Marmite... Toblerone... Bombay Sapphire Gin... Tate & Lyle Syrup... Oxo Cubes
Rarely, the actual product contents - so it becomes clear that packaging often can be both messenger (means of delivery) and message (brand identity and consumer reassurance).
Without packaging, supermarket shopping would grind to a halt. Convenience foods would disappear. Fruit and vegetables would go to waste. Self-medication would become largely impractical. Some goods would cease to be available in this country.
Packaging is part and parcel of everyday life, yet its contribution is either taken for granted or else misunderstood by the public at large; it’s needed but rarely respected. When the focus shifts to environmental concerns, it’s invariably vilified for incurring unnecessary carbon footprint or else ridiculed as being superfluous to requirements.
Take a straw poll of public opinion, and shrinkwrapped cucumbers; elaborately presented Easter eggs or plastic bags littering the pavement are the most likely lasting impressions.
Maybe the underlying problem is more to do with our consumerism habits than we might care to admit. Even so, having successfully created the successful image for so many products, why has packaging failed to do the same for itself?
This will be just one of the issues addressed by a panel of speakers representing different perspectives of how packaging impacts upon branding; retailing; the environment; consumerism, and the media.
It should prove to be a lively debate. And it’s one in which exhibitors and visitors will want to express some firm opinions of their own – and take an active part by raising points from the floor, or posting questions online in advance – email email@example.com
The BiG Packaging Debate at Packaging Innovations London 2010.
It’s where packaging makes sense.
The BIG Packaging Debate
Kevin Vyse - Chair
Kevin is a brand, packaging and retail troubleshooter and his career has spanned 30 years in FMCG with time being spent on all facets of the branding, packaging and retail mix.
He trained as a packaging designer and also marketer and is in a unique position to speak on matters concerning brands, packaging and retail.
His knowledge based view has been built up working on every aspect of a brand lifecycle.
Companies listed in his portfolio include SJ Johnson, Reckitt Benckiser, GSK, Tesco, Diageo, B&Q, Planet Design, Akzo Nobel, M S George and Butcombe Brewery.
In the last 10 years, as well as working for brand owners, Kevin has worked with SME’s including marketing research business Tangible Branding and brand investment company Huni. He also serves as a non-executive on the board of three companies.
His pro-bono work includes PRAG, Vice Chairman of The Packaging Society and Sierra Leone Company London.
He was awarded a Fellowship of the Institute of Packaging in 1997 and has a Diploma in Marketing.
Marcel began his career as an Account Director at a number of agencies, including WPP before going on to found Superbrands, which promotes branding in over 30 countries and pays tribute to exceptional brands: members range from Adidas to Virgin.
‘In addition to the multiplicity of functions that it performs on behalf the products it serves : protection; maintaining freshness; aiding convenience; providing information – and the list goes on – without the attention that eye-catching packaging attracts we’d end up with less brand and more bland. Take it out the equation, and we could be attending a succession of funerals for some well-known household names.’
‘Without its well-defined packaging Toilet Duck would be a lame duck. And what would Gordon’s be were it not for that iconic bottle? Sarson’s could be just about anyone’s vinegar without the inimitable way in which it shapes up on the shelf.’
‘On-pack imagery bears a massive responsibility in determining the desired consumer response – and God help the brand owner that gets it wrong. Whoever was responsible for the photography on Baxters’ soups should be taken out and shot; it’s enough to turn the most committed carnivore into an instant vegan. And quite frankly, Morrisons’ looks like it has something deeply unpleasant to hide the way it camouflages its own-label fairy cakes in thick, yellow plastic.’
‘For all the benefits that well-designed packaging brings to a brand’s performance it’s a shame it rarely seems to get the recognition it deserves. Considering that promotion is part and parcel of its stock in trade, it’s ironic that packaging should be pretty unsuccessful at managing it on its own account. It would do a lot worse than take a leaf out its customers’ book and start thinking about itself as a generic brand in its own right.’
Julia Hailes MBE
Author of The Green Consumer Guide which has sold a million copies worldwide, Julia is an environmental campaigner and a sustainability consultant advising a number of multi-national companies, including Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, McDonalds and Procter & Gamble. In 1989 she was elected to the UN `Global 500 Roll of Honour’ for ‘outstanding environmental achievements'.
‘Whilst I think that we need much, much more recycled plastic being used in the supply chain it’s not enough to incur the energy in turning it into useless products – a prime example being all those garden pots that were made, but which frankly would otherwise have never been used. Recycling is only good if it has actual merit. If it doesn’t give any environmental pay-back then it’s pointless; keeping it in the system may have a worse impact even than putting it into landfill.’
‘One of the issues that companies find very hard to face is whether or not what they produce is actually necessary. Saying that there’s a demand for it, ergo it’s needed just isn’t good enough. That’s something we really have to look at it in the greater scheme of things.’
‘There’s a hierarchy of what you can be doing with used material. Even if it ends up in landfill sites or incinerators, if the overall impact is less than recycling then that’s going to be better. Clearly, energy from waste ranks higher than no energy from waste.’
‘Companies have got to stop pandering to what consumers may think is the best thing, and start educating them so that they actually understand what really is.’
‘Packaging is such an obvious target, because it’s so symbolic of our wasteful society. It’s very difficult as a consumer to understand about the whole supply chain issue. Ultimately, companies should be trying to get consumers’ trust that they’re delivering the optimum solution.’
‘A lot of stationery and DIY products are over-packaged and under-scrutinised. Often it’s retailers that are driving this as they require shelf-ready packaging, or try to give the impression of greater value by taking up more space. There needs to be some innovative and imaginative re-thinking of the supply chain.
‘We have half a dozen suppliers with whom we’re in regular contact. I don’t know their businesses in detail and they may all be successful, but I do find them extremely narrow in their perspective. Do they understand our business? I don’t think so - but it’s certainly not through any lack of trying to explain it to them. I can only assume that because we’re small and we’re not going to order in great volumes, they’re just not particularly interested.’
‘It seems to us that the packaging industry is only interested in volume; why else can no one seem to be able to offer me anything? And yet there’s such a collective focus on the need to be sustainable: every retailer in the land has got some sort of equivalent to ‘Plan A’ to prove their green credentials because they see it as a commercial necessity.’
‘Our view of the packaging industry is that it’s unresponsive, unimaginative, not in tune with our business and atypically not proactive.
‘If I was in the engineering world I’d be able to go to say Cambridge where they’d be lots of people developing new and wonderful technologies. In packaging, if they exist at all they’re maybe hidden away in a cupboard somewhere like Wolverhampton.’
‘In the ethical sector, when the consumer thinks about food and the environment there’s an immediate connect to packaging – and by extension, waste. As things stand right now, it actually gets in the way of the product. The vast majority of our customers accept that there has to be packaging, but they want it to be minimised, and they certainly want it to be as environmentally friendly as possible.’
‘In my experience, when I pick up the ‘phone to a packaging manufacturer probably the first or second thing they’ll tell me is the minimum volume they’ll supply. That’s got to be wrong. Yes, packaging is about cost - but not necessarily about minimum run. Equating tooling cost to volume puts a brake on innovation. It certainly inhibits flexibility.’
‘I don’t think of packaging as being an evil; far from it. I think it’s very necessary – but it needs more design and flexibility in its approach. The trouble is the manufacturers only tell you what they want to say, not what you want to hear. If you are a packaging supplier with an ethical solution you should be knocking on my door.’
‘We’ve forgotten about the importance of packaging and why we need it. Consumers only have a superficial understanding of the role it plays – the rest looks like waste, when it fills their dustbins or litters the streets.’
‘Processed product is a more sustainable option than getting it fresh and making a meal from scratch. The economics of waste should be better managed in the factory than in the kitchen.’
‘Most consumers would say they’re in favour of sustainability. But that ideology is over-ridden in the shop, where they buy with their eyes not with their head.’
‘Manufacturers never want to use unnecessary packaging; it’s a direct cost against profit.’
‘The best way to enhance the image of the packaging industry would be to get children to understand it from an early age.’
‘The retail industry has done a lot to eliminate superfluous packaging. The challenge is how to show consumers that these imperceptible changes make a difference.’
‘To see where packaging is going in the future, you need to understand where it’s come from.’