Top 5 packaging innovation take-outs from FDIN conference
At the end of June, Happen chaired the FDIN Packaging conference: Unwrapping Packaging and Putting it at the Heart of NPD.
Here are our top 5 packaging innovation take-outs from the event:
1. Adding value
In the past, packaging was often adding value OR delivering sustainability – rarely both.
But there are examples of where it can really work: Heinz beans were synonymous with a tin can yet their more recent packaging innovations saw them move into a safely microwavable plastic pot and then into mini-pots delivering convenience.
This packaging journey shows a distinct value add for the consumer at each stage. The usage occasion is improved, new occasions are opened up and for Heinz, they are asking a higher price/ gram. Charging more for the same product (or charging the same but for less!) is often shied away from by retailers & brands, but by delivering that added value through packaging, consumers are willing to join you on the journey.
We have seen similar examples if we look at the yogurt category – a product that previously always required two hands to eat. Deliver the same product through a squeezable pouch pack and tah-dah – you have a credible on-the-go yogurt offering that is super easy for consumers. Added value.
A challenge and consideration, of course, is the initial CAPEX required to implement a new pack into your existing lines but the upfront investment can unlock a world of opportunities.
We can also think about smarter packaging (not technically ‘smart packaging’ – we’ll get onto that later) but packaging that does all or some of the job for you. We’ve seen Pepsico deliver Walker’s crisps in a pack that turns into a bowl and Tesco delivering a similar concept for bagged salad.
2. Know your consumer
The next generation of consumers – from younger millennials to our emerging Gen Z-ers – are highly conscious of their impact on the world. This makes their purchases more considered; a brand must jump through multiple hoops to satisfy the consumers of tomorrow. Choice is dependent on a myriad of factors: How does this fit into my lifestyle? How does it feel when I pick it up? Will it do the job easily and quickly? How will I feel about this purchase in a week, month or a year’s time?
Luckily for us, consumers are venting many of these questions and more, online. Review sites, blog posts and social media are all rich sources for consumer verbatim where we can uncover micro-frustrations or points of excitement which give us clues when we come to innovate. Our proprietary tool StarMaker allows us to identify and analyse these conversations without asking a single question. We can interrogate the granular detail in unprompted narrative and deepen our knowledge of the category, gaining competitive and commercial edge.
As our consumers are now hyper-connected, they are exposed to more opportunities to share their own experiences.
- “Never has it been harder to talk to everyone. Never has it been easier to talk to your consumer” Honey Creative
This impacts their relationship with the brands they buy; the role of design & pack is now, more than ever, going beyond standout on shelf. Packaging is the thing that lives longest with the consumer, so it must align with their own style. Have no doubt, your consumer will be thinking: How does this look in my home? Consider categories such as coffee or even olive oil – elegant, stylish packaging has driven a sideways explosion in these fixtures in-store.
Function and form have to work together intuitively to deliver a richer experience. This can mean that brand takes a back-seat and graphics, design and aesthetics that communicate an emotive story are dialled up. The level of detail that packaging can so effectively deliver can improve the experience for consumers and will stay with them long after the moment of consumption. Pasta packaging that pre-portions a single serving, for example, or baby formula packs designed to be easy to use with one hand, are just two examples of considered function-meets-form design.
- “If the consumer economy had a sex, it would be female. If the business world had a sex it would be male. Here in lies a pickle!” Red Shoe Brand Design
3. Stand up and be counted
Let’s take a look at one micro-trend that has caused a stir in recent years: the rise of the stand-up pouch.
Currently it’s dominating baby food, children’s yogurts & milks, but is moving into sauces, meals and grains. This rise has happened in parallel to the increase in smaller, young professional or single-person households but also the growing over 60’s population who require smaller, individually packaged portions. Children and young adults growing up with this packaging format will learn to associate it with freshness.
This format is very adaptable, with uses for liquids & purees or grains, seeds & pulses. Each pack can be printed with brand graphics or be transparent to show the product inside. This cues quality for the consumer and we can see this translating to a higher price per kilo being successfully demanded by the retailer.
Pouch packs can re-energise the category and help establish a new price benchmark within the retail space meaning the initial CAPEX involved in implementing the format can pay dividends. If the role that pack plays in consumer’s choice is ever in doubt, we can look to recent research conducted by ASDA to combat falling perceptions of their own label lines.
- “Great packaging is often invisible to the consumer – they only notice packaging when it’s NOT working” ASDA
ASDA found that 70% of consumers were making their decision on what to buy in-store, with 28% of those then going on to buy branded products over own-label. Testing their products vs other supermarket own-label, ASDA’s line was on par when blind tested but fell below purely on its packaging. A combination of redesign of on-pack graphics and structural changes have started to show improvements to perception from consumers. Time will tell if packaging alone, without any product innovation, can improve the picture for ASDA.
4. Innovating within restrictions
What can we learn from brands who face daunting restraints in their sector? Monty’s Bakehouse are market leaders in providing handheld snacks to the aviation industry, specialising in bake-in-packs, hot snacks, thaw & serve, bakery and ambient snack solutions.
An initial challenge posed by a food producer serving its products at 35,000ft is the 30% drop in taste-bud reception under pressurised cabin conditions. Product development therefore has to happen in a simulated environment to ensure the flavours deliver.
From a packaging point of view, there are many restrictions. Distribution of small batches to multiple destinations across the UK means pallet configuration must be considered to save time & cost and is designed into the product from the outset. Additional unnecessary weight increases the fuel consumption demanding production of ultra-streamlined, light-weight packaging. Space is limited so creating solutions that deliver within a single-cell pack makes life easier for both the airline staff and the end consumer. Preparation needs to be simple – ideally a one-step process – so that airline staff can spend less time on catering and more time looking after customers during a flight.
Once the food is in consumer’s hands, it has to be ultra easy to eat, mess-free and intuitive. Packaging that contains the product and any crumbs is best and if cutlery can be dispensed with it, then even better.
A rise in on-the-go consumption demands that retailers offer suitable food-to-go across their stores. Packaging that works whilst walking to the office, sitting in a meeting or standing on the tube is in greater demand and valued higher than conventional items. Consumers will willingly pay more for convenient packaging that adapts to their lifestyle. If we can take apparent restrictions and use them as start-points for innovation, we are often directly addressing existing consumer frustrations.
5. Sustainability: a waste of space?
On the fringes of packaging innovation, we see examples of pioneering sustainable solutions. These often come from challenger brands, or simply from start-ups and small businesses who have the luxury of flexibility. Bio-packaging created from natural sources that is completely compostable or even edible is having an impact in these smaller companies. Milk proteins and seaweed are just two of the materials being played with. Creating sustainable packaging is much more of a challenge for established large businesses.
However, it’s important to recognise that consumers are driving a new kind of democracy by demanding more sustainable solutions and not just because they think they should. Big players, including Nestle and Danone, have begun working with start-ups to reduce their plastic waste. This in itself may not be enough – the next generation of consumers are looking for positive sustainability – not a case of managing waste but using materials more intelligently in the first place. Thinking smarter during the design process can save organisations a lot of money in the long run, after all packaging is an incredibly valuable part of production.
- “10 million tonnes of food is wasted per year with 60% of this being unavoidable. That’s £17 billion down the drain” Flavour Feed
Credibly sustainable practices drive consumer & customer loyalty where they add value to the 360 experience. Smart packaging, for example, that clearly communicates a product’s shelf life and reduces food waste ensures consumers have a better product experience and therefore are more likely to buy into that brand in the future.
Packaging can work magic but utilising that power is like a chef creating a winning recipe – there are many ingredients to combine in the perfect way. Delivering added value, understanding your consumer enough to deliver something truly intuitive and keeping your finger on the pulse of upcoming trends all make success much more likely.
For more information about how we can help you spot packaging NPD opportunities get in touch.