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Complementary to the September 2010 State of Packaging feature, an expert panel delves into topics such as the catalysts for next-generation packaging innovations; key brand equities expressed through packaging; new materials, designs and technologies; and working/adapting with brand owners in new ways.
- Lesley Gadomski, Sales Manager, Fusion Packaging
- Andrew H. Dent, PhD, Vice President, Library and Materials Research, Material ConneXion
- Earl Trout, Director of Marketing, MWV Beauty & Personal Care
- Sandy Nagel, Co-owner and Vice President, JSN Cosmetic Packaging
- Ilan Schinazi, CEO, Cosfibel
- Walter Dwyer, West Coast Sales Director, Cosmopak USA
- Rebecca Holland, Marketing Director, Kaufman Container Company
- Tom DiPietro, Vice President, R&D, DayGlo
- Dominic Bakic, CEO, DieterBakicEnterprises
- Jorge Izquierdo, Vice President of Market Development, PMMI
- Marny Bielefeldt, Marketing Director, Alpha Packaging
Q: Have brand owners sacrificed some aspect of packaging due to budget constraints, and how has your company responded?
Gadomski: Due to budget constraints, some brand owners are looking for alternatives to heavy wall acrylic packaging. In response, Fusion has expanded its PP airless offerings. Keeping low cost and eco-friendly resin in mind, each bottle is ergonomically designed without an over cap and conveys a simplified, clean image.
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Dent: If that aspect of packaging is at all superfluous, then isn’t [sacrificing that aspect] a good thing? If we can provide great quality packaging that is beautiful without the need for excess material, then this is progress.
Trout: I wouldn’t say that brand owners have sacrificed some aspect of packaging due to budget constraints. I will say that companies are being more nimble about their packaging offerings by expanding product offerings to include smaller, more affordable sizes. Even if these consumers trade down in product size, they still respond to creative, innovative and sophisticated packaging designs and materials.
Nagel: Contrarily, we find that brand owners are primarily concerned with looking for ways for their brands to stand out. So our reputation for using cutting edge technology to produce high quality products supports this trend.
Schinazi: At first step the reaction was to scarifice some aspects of the packaging. But very soon we have seen that, [in the end], brand equity needed to be preserved. Packaging is still very high end, but clients have been tougher on the negotiation. They want same added value packaging but pay less because of their budget constraints.
Dwyer: Many brands have shifted the focus to price and the way they order. Our ability to reduce [costs] has helped us take on new clients that might otherwise have been lost to competitors. We have given key accounts more exceptional payment terms. Many brands have also looked for cost savings by changing the design of a package. Shifting from metal to plastic, or to a more basic package. Our tube business is very strong.
I also feel the ethical or recycled trend lost momentum [since the latest financial crisis] as it costs more to use recycled materials and brands had no chance to increase their cost base in the last 12 months.
Holland: I believe brand owners prefer to maintain package integrity regardless of whether they are high end or value brands. An upscale product manufacturer may entertain offering a value brand just to capture that piece of the market. But we haven’t seen any compromising when it comes to putting out a quality product, including the packaging, for many of our customers.
DiPietro: Fortunately, we haven’t seen a reduction in the use of our special effect pigments in existing products. But, there’s no doubt that brand owners and designers have been required to do more with less. And, since beauty packaging is often designed to reflect a premium product, the challenge is how to create a luxurious package within new budget constraints.
One of the most affordable and easiest ways to innovate is through new color schemes. A brand can refresh its packaging without making changes to the structural design of a package or added manufacturing costs. DayGlo devotes significant resources to our R&D program to develop new and improved colors that make a significant impact on the shelf. This enables us to offer companies new options for package design, even during a down economy. In fact, we will be launching a series of new products within the year that allow brands to continue to innovate with color.
Another way we’ve responded is with the recent introduction of the Brand Action Team, which includes DayGlo’s marketing, business development and technical experts. Working with brand owners, designers and suppliers from concept to production, the team helps implement brand-building color across consumer touch points.
Bakic: We did not experience shifts to lower cost packaging due to the crisis, but the need to purchase lower minimum order quantities. To reduce the risk of fixed capital, many partners asked for lower order quantities. We responded to this need by setting-up a more flexible supply chain where smaller quantities can be ordered and where reorders can be processed faster than in the past to overcome out of stock situations for our customers.
Izquierdo: From the conversations we’ve had with brand owners, we know that budget cuts forced a lot of companies to examine their product portfolio and find ways to make manufacturing lines more efficient and simplify packaging. Taking this step can be a win-win situation for both company economics and the environment.
One example can be seen in the increasing use of shrink sleeves to simplify the labeling process, which ultimately saves time and money. By taking this approach, manufacturers avoid having to change out pre-printed bottles when switching from one SKU to another. This also increases flexibility of the manufacturing line, helping reduce downtime and the rate of changeover.
Bielefeldt: For companies that didn’t want to take the plunge with a custom bottle, they may have sacrificed the custom shape and used a stock bottle. At Alpha, since we had fewer custom bottle projects for our in-house design team, we took advantage of our design and engineering team and developed four new stock lines for the beauty market. Those bottles are available now for personal care companies ready to make a packaging change.
Another area in which brand owners have made sacrifices is with their container decorating. To save money and simplify packaging, major consumer products companies have reduced the number of colors they use in screen printing, and eliminated some signature branding elements such as foil banding or metallic hot stamping.
Q: What has surprised you most about either what packaging/designs/technologies have connected with consumers or what directions brands have gone with their packaging?
Trout: In recent consumer tests, we noticed a sophistication or an awareness across many consumers that certain packages were “airless” in design. This depth of knowledge typically signifies an understanding of benefits as well. “I like this airless system because…” was a common refrain. Prior to this testing we knew that consumers liked certain (airless) packages because they would get more product out or it would dispense more consistently, but we did not know they could discern the difference between non-airless and airless systems. This just further shows the importance that airless packaging is playing across beauty and personal care categories.
Nagel: Packaging decoration—printing, color options, foil-stamping—is increasingly more innovative, and sophisticated. We have invested in expanding our printing capacity so we can keep up. We embrace change at JSN, and are proud to be a participant in such an innovative field.
Schinazi: Eco friendly packaging is a real trend .Clients are seeking for new ideas to respond to this need
Dwyer: The focus on organized design. Many brands use similar basic colors ( white and silver) and a strong font type to convey a feeling of sleek design or a premium feel, however I feel the lack of creativity is causing a blandness in whats available to the consumer
Holland: I’m still surprised that some industries continue to offer consumers the same packaging that’s been around forever. In some cases, this works very well. In other cases, it does not. I’m still amazed that cereal comes in bag lined boxes. Not terribly user friendly in my opinion.
DiPietro: In terms of color, I certainly think it is interesting that there has been a resurgence in the popularity of bright colors—that signifies something of a resurgence in consumer confidence. Researchers tells us that softer colors like pinks, teals and light blues, along with certain pastels, are usually chosen by shoppers who plan to stick to budget or are traditionalists. In contrast, bright oranges, strong blues and brighter, more eye-catching, more fun colors all appeal more to impulse shoppers.
Izquierdo: Packaging will continue to be a key identifier for brands in the marketplace. By conveying the benefits of a brand, companies have an opportunity to build preference starting at the retail shelf through final use. Today, there are more opportunities than ever to tell brand stories and develop those strong associations with new generations of consumers. They are arriving to stores more informed than ever and rely on that knowledge when making purchasing decisions.
To help brand owners maximize success on the retail shelf, PMMI is bringing The Brand Zone to PACK EXPO in Chicago for the first time. This special area of the show will include innovative packaging technologies that increase visual impact, enhance convenience and add functionality. Among the solutions will be the latest advances in glass, plastic and paperboard packaging and decorating and labeling techniques.
Q: What are your catalysts for next-generation packaging innovations?
Trout: Sustainability, product performance and shelf differentiation. Sustainability will continue to be a catalyst for next-generation packaging innovation to support our objectives, our customers’ and consumers' needs. Product performance is essential for a brand’s continued success, and our dispensing solutions need to enhance the consumer experience. Shelf differentiation is key to getting that purchase decision for the brand. Overall, there needs to be a healthy emphasis on creating environmentally friendly packaging that isn’t perceived as over-packaged—but yet still address brand owners’ need for customized, unique offerings.
Nagel: We listen carefully to our clients feedback regarding preferences, and we act on it immediately, or appropriately.
Schinazi: We still need to do more on the eco friendly environment, and in finding new materials.
Dwyer: Nature, fashion and architecture.
Holland: We want to be the best provider of packaging solutions. That includes bringing to all of our customers—regardless of their respective industry—the best global innovative packaging options. If we don’t, we risk our future growth.
In terms of our in-house decorating and labeling departments, we continue to explore and expand our options to provide the latest technologies and processes. We also have an in-house art department that works with our customers on their graphic needs. We realize the importance of graphics and how profoundly they can impact a package, so we look at new inks and applications in this realm as well. Decoration and graphics have a tremendous effect on the overall appearance of a package, so we do not take that lightly. A simple package can become a show-stopper when the right graphic elements and decorating techniques come together. We continue to seek out innovations in this realm of the packaging world as well.
In addition, Kaufman Container is continually adding to our library of private molds in order to not only meet our customers’ needs but also the packaging trends in a variety of industries. We’ll take a look at what the market is demanding or where we see it going and build molds that are available for our customers’ use.
DiPietro: At DayGlo, we know color—we are continually developing new products and enhancing existing ones. We not only understand what it is our customers are trying to achieve, but also how to help them achieve it. We look at any innovation from two perspectives—color effects and also the specific medium in which those effects will be used. So as packaging continues to evolve, we will of course be exploring new palettes, new specialty color effects and new ways to use color to draw attention, build brands and enhance the value of any given product.
At the same time, we will be exploring ways to use color with new materials to create a wider ranger of packaging options for our customers. That may involve following environmental trends, addressing the need for direct contact with other materials or even finding ways to make one material appear like another—just as our dual-tone pearlescent pigments can make plastics look more like metals.
Bielefeldt: The most critical components for a successful new packaging innovation are simple: The bottle must perform as well or better than the packaging it replaces; it must be cost-neutral (or if it costs more, the upcharge must be in line with the added value the new package offers); it must be readily available and accessible to smaller brands; it must not have any attributes that make it worse for the environment than the packaging it replaces (for example, it should not have additives that prevent it from being recycled, or that contaminate the existing recycling streams; it should not require more raw materials to produce; etc.).
Q: What are today’s key brand equities as expressed through packaging?
Trout: This, again, comes to light through our consumer testing. There is no real surprise, other than the fact that what a consumer truly wants today has not really changed: trust, performance and value. MWV believes that packaging—both through dispensing systems and folding cartons—helps communicate to consumers the brand image they trust and reinforces promises. The dispensing system is integral to delivering on the performance expectations. If the performance and the packaging fulfills on the promise and the expectation, then the consumer will feel they received value for their purchase.
Nagel: The top two issues we see are: sophistication in packaging design and the desire to be known for their commitment to the environment. Looking to Europe as an example of a progressive environmentally aware culture, JSN wants to be known for serving these requirements, at prices that will allow companies to maintain their manufacturing in the U.S.—instead of Asia. There is a lot to be said for keeping business plans domestic.
Schinazi: The packaging has to enhance the product itself. The product is the champion. The pack sublimates the product. Pack is the "mise en scene.”
Dwyer: Identification and value.
Holland: I think it depends on each individual brand and how they want to represent themselves. Some brands want to be fun and youthful, so they may look for more out-of-the box shapes and colors to represent themselves. Other brands are focused on the green effort and are represented by a more simplistic packaging approach and recyclability or PCR content. Sometimes the focus is on the decoration to sell the brand and wow the consumer rather than the packaging components. Other times the product is so innovative it requires customization to make it work. We focus on each individual customer to find a package that will work with their particular product and brand. Success in packaging is personal to each customer. Think of Chanel No 5, it’s a staple for many women. I don’t believe the package has ever changed from its inception. There’s a reason for that.
DiPietro: Structural and graphic design elements are essential to communicating a brand’s equity—including the perceived value or quality and brand image. At the heart of design is color, which quickly conveys a brand’s identity and makes an impression on the consumers mind. Ultimately, color builds brand recognition and preference driving sales. Research reveals people make a subconscious judgment about a product, person, or environment within 90 seconds of initial viewing; and between 62–90% of that assessment is based on color alone. [Source: CCICOLOR – Institute for Color Research]
Q: What has taken precedence or become the imperative in the current climate: offering new materials, designs and technologies or working/adapting with brand owners in new ways?
Gadomski: Offering new designs and technologies has taken precedence over working with brand owners in new ways. The first question our customers ask us is “What do you have that’s new?” With so much competition in the skin care market today, brands are constantly searching for the latest and greatest technology that will truly set their brand apart.
Trout: It’s really a combination of both. Coming out of the economic downturn, brand owners are more competitive than ever. They’re looking to partner with suppliers who get effective innovation and are faster to market. At the same time, they need their products to truly stand out on the shelf. So, brand owners are also looking to increase the customization of their products’ packaging.
An example of how MWV has innovated to meet this need is with through fragrance products and dispenser assemblies incorporating MWV’s NoC invisible dip tube. MWV’s newly patented fragrance dispensing system with the NoC dip tube is an elegant and discreet dispensing solution that offers the brand owner complete freedom to design a premium fragrance. With our innovative technology, the NoC dip tube is virtually invisible inside the fragrance. When paired with MWV’s Melodie pump, the fragrance stands above the rest as a superior, prestige product.
MWV has also developed various customization options for fragrance packaging with MWV’s Melodie Clikit IP pump. Clikit IP is a new generation, resin-injected, click-on pump offering an infinite range of customized colors. The pump perfectly imitates the prestige look of metal. It also features various decorative finishes, including pearl, iridescent, soft touch and sparkle and sublimation for tailor-made images and patterns to communicate brand image on the pump. Sublimation allows for the pump to be fully integrated into the pack design since now the bottle, pump, cap and outer carton can be decorated with the same tailor made image.
Nagel: All of the above! We believe that JSN’s responsive customer service supports brand owners in all of these critical areas.
Schinazi: Reactivity became paramount. Nothing's more important than bringing the appropriate answer to the client on time. Everyone is confused about the economic climate. Decisions are being postponed till the last moment.
Dwyer: Creating something truly different or unique when executed well can have a very big effect
Holland: New materials, designs and technologies are a given. There are more influences coming from retailers and consumers. Both can shape the size of your package and the functional components.
DiPietro: I really think they go hand in hand. When you have new materials and technologies to offer, it becomes imperative brand owners and their suppliers work together in the design and development of products and packaging to ensure seamless integration of new materials and technologies. That’s why we thought it was so important to form our Brand Action Team, which draws from our pool of technical, marketing and business development experts to streamline the development process and reduce any potential of error when implementing new colors.
Bielefeldt: For us, it’s been important to work with brand owners as a partner—making sure we are offering sound designs, consistent quality and reasonable development times. Brand owners have faced some real challenges these past two years with fluctuating sales and projections.