“Competition is a great thing and critically important in any industry. I respect the companies that build their brand through innovation/great product, packaging, sharp marketing and clever ideas.” – John Robinson. A great product wears great clothes, and that must be packaging that talks directly to prospective buyers. Since you are not there at every shelf, the packaging your product wears brings your ideas of what that product contains to the consumer.
Steve Jobs once said, “Packaging can be theatre, it can create a story”. The trick is that the story packaging creates lies in the hands of the designer and the philosophy behind the brand. To make your packaging speak for you, understanding the functions of packaging is critical. In this article we will be looking at the basic functions of packaging which make it qualify as a mouthpiece for your product.
Packaging is a general term used for the functions, materials and overall concept in a coordinated system of preparing goods for handling, shipment, storage, marketing, distribution and use at optimum cost, and is compatible with requirements of the product. Well, for the latter, a whole new article would be needed to address it thoroughly; shelf-life of products has a direct correlation to the packaging that contains it. The function of packaging lies within its definition, and these can be isolated as follows: contain the product, protect the product, inform about the product, facilitate handling and distribution, as well as position the product and promote sales.
Packaging as a Container
Can you imagine a product that has to be sold to the masses but does not have a container? Think about water, processed foods, artefacts, textiles, body-lotions, creams, essential-oils, pharmaceutical products etc. It is okay to even think about processing in bulk containers, but how do you break such bulk products into consumer units? One major function of packaging is its ability to allow the manufacturer to break bulk into smaller lots by volume, weight or count. Since the cost of packaging impacts product cost directly, primary packaging affords you the opportunity to fit the exact quantity into the right space. While at it, packaging helps to prevent leakages and escape of products in the case of aerosols. Food Technologists can help in designing the right packaging for your products so as to have the advantages above fully covered.
Packaging as a Protector
Urban sprawl has brought in its wake the need to leave home very early and return late. Waking up at dawn every day to prepare meals is a challenge, and one may have to depend on processed food, or fresh food packaged and sold by the roadside or fast-food joints. This has created good business for actors in the food industry, for instance. Incidentally, some food-poisoning incidents are attributable to poor packaging of food, leading to the proliferation of pathogenic microorganisms.
If poor packaging has this negative impact, what would have been the situation if packaging was not available? Hence, the protective attribute of packaging cannot be overemphasised. There are several types of packaging for various purposes. The type of product in question will determine the type of packaging that should be employed, type of material for the packaging, thickness, height, width etc. It is therefore a mistake for processors to buy packaging off the market for their products, as the type of packaging purchased may not necessarily give that protection the contents may require.
For example, olive oil and others in its category must be stored in dark bottles and not plain ones because it reacts with light on exposure – causing degradation and accelerated rancidity, shortening the shelf-life in the process. In the same manner, packaging must have tight-lids to keep out oxygen which can also increase the rate of rancidity. In summary, packaging helps keep the product in perfect condition until reaching the intended destination or end-user by avoiding spoilage, breakage, moisture-damage, contamination and pilferage.
Packaging as an Informer
An informer is one that imparts knowledge or news. If you look at it from the other definition of one who makes a practice, especially for a financial reward, of informing against others for violations of penal laws, then packaging can reward the manufacturer financially taking only the first part of this definition. Simply put, the contents of a product can be judged from what is written or indicated on its packaging. Have you ever been blown away by tasting a product that is poorly packaged?
In most of those instances, the attraction to sample was not because of the packaging but probably out of curiosity or coercion. It is important to note that there are regulatory laws governing what a packaging should carry. According to the labelling rule, the packaging must bear the name of the product, its ingredient list, manufacturing date, best before date, weight or volume, nutritional values etc. These pieces of information help the consumer appreciate what the packaging contains, and this plays a key role in the purchase decision.
Packaging as a Handling and Distribution Catalyst
As an entrepreneur going into production, you should be thinking of how your products will move around. One of the functions of packaging is to facilitate handling and distribution. Hence, in the design of packaging it is important to understand the movement of same along the distribution chain. What should be on the minds of packaging developers is the ease with which the package facilitates safe handling of the product, from the time of packing until its receipt by the end-user.
Let’s use Voltic dispenser bottles as an example: The original design, just like other designs on the market, had no handle and hence carrying them was tedious; they had to be held by the neck or carried on the shoulder. Lately, I have seen a new design with a handle at its midsection, which makes handling easier. It is therefore imperative for companies to think of consumer comfort when designing packaging.
Packaging as a Promoter
While you are busily working within the perimeter of your company, and the sales team keeps hopping from one outlet to another, the only salesperson you have standing is your product! The graphics you put on your product have the capacity to position the product and promote sales when everyone else in the business is asleep. Structural and graphic design of a package should be optimised to attract and help sell. Again, employ the services of professionals to help you in this direction.
I will conclude with this: “Persuasion has become a kind of force. The more the advertiser knows about what consumers want, and the more desires the product and packaging seek to fulfil, the more coercive the force”. – Virginia Postrel. As a manufacturer who wants to push products into regional and global markets, the lessons learned in this article could lead to successful product positioning if followed to the letter. With the help of Food Technologists and Graphic Designers, the prospects are great for fit-for-purpose packaging that sells its contents by itself.
Johnson Opoku-Boateng is the Founder & Lead Consultant, QA CONSULT (Consultants and Trainers in Quality Assurance, Health & Safety, Environmental Management systems, Manufacturing Excellence and Food Safety). He is also a consumer safety advocate and helps businesses with Regulatory Affairs. He can be reached on +233209996002, email: [email protected]; [email protected]
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