It will be clear to my readers that development and trends in packaging, its technology and the grade of its sophistication are entirely dependent of the trends in the requirements and expectations of the consumers in regard to the factual product, they intend to purchase.
I have said it before. The contemporary consumers aren’t buying just a product, but a solution for a specific occasion and it is well documented that they aren’t brand loyal in any way. Companies tend too often to go, when introducing a new product or packaging, in the direction of branding ignoring the consumer demands.
For the contemporary consumer packaging is like his smartphone. Not only convenience, but identical as with his smartphone, he wants to see a smart packaging, complete with applications suitable for his demanding on-the-go, day-to-day and professional life, as well as his extra-curricular activities.
This view on packaging will revolutionise the packaging field. According to an article in Food and Beverage Packaging, 2015 marks the end of mass and the rise of the individual. From ultra-personalized experiences to custom packaging to straightforward dialogue, 2015 will be the year where the consumer truly reigns supreme. Landor, a strategic branding and design firm, analysed innovations, changes, consumer behaviours, and attitudes from a multitude of industries and global locales and emerged with insights for the coming year that signal a shift away from the mass and a definitive move toward the niche (2).
To top this, Suley Muratoglu (Tetra Pak) argues in Food Packaging, that falling into step with ever-more demanding and on-the-go consumers in 2015, packaging will need to up every aspect of its game. That means being greener; flawlessly functional; lighter and more compact; able to communicate its benefits clearly; and being not just highly visible, but fashionable as well (1).
His statement is underlined by market research agency Canadean, which predicts that the desire for craft offerings will become increasingly influential. Consumers want their products to be produced and manufactured on a smaller scale to ensure quality and to feel a closer connection to the brands they choose.
In light of this movement to the “niche”, it’s not very surprising that we see tumultuous and dramatic developments in the hyper and supermarket world. UK-based Packaging News even goes a step further and forecasts that the weekly shopping trip is dead; long live the several-times-a-day shop.
It’s a proclamation that is ahead of its time just now, but an imminent possibility in light of the escalating development of smaller convenience outlets by the major multiples; this is in sharp contrast to the simultaneous mothballing of some out-of-town hypermarket sites.
According to the IGD (a UK-based non-profit that provides insight and best practice information to the food and grocery industry worldwide), convenience stores on average receive 12 visits per capita per month – more than any other kind of grocery format – and will account for a quarter of all food sales within the next five years (3).
Packaging News concludes that it’s not just bricks and mortar retail being buffeted by the winds of change. Over the same time-frame, add online retail into the mix and on a combined basis with discount and convenience stores this new approach towards shopping will account for 43% of all grocery sales in the UK (compared with a present day 32%) by 2017; tellingly, too, with 33% of all transactions conducted after 6pm (3).
I realise that Packaging News is writing with the UK market in mind, but I have the impression that a similar development is on its way in various other European countries and that we will even see shocking changes in the US. It’s clear that the hyper and giant supermarkets are outmoded by the consumer and even many a shopping mall is struggling to survive.
For Canadean consequences of this changing consumer attitude will mean that many brands will face the danger of fading into the background, due to the large number of products available on supermarket shelves, as, according to Packaging News the knock-on effect of these altered retailing patterns is most evident within the convenience store environment, where it is not just size but the reduced amount of available shelf and storage space that counts.
In this light it is useless to discuss trends and make predictions for each individual packaging format. For me all packaging formats, whether they are plastic or glass bottles, flexible packaging, tubes, tins or cans, have the same chance in the market with the contemporary consumer, as long as the packaging design fulfils his requirement of the specific occasion of that moment. Or as Mark Chapman (UK based Project Packaging) notes that packaging designers are starting to think about the consumer experience once he has left the store and what added value the packaging can bring to his home. This has to lead to the creation of “hyper-functional” packaging, packaging that goes beyond its initial requirements.
But that’s all nice and dandy, but it’s not the packaging itself that revolutionises the packaging field in 2015, but the changing shopping behaviour of the consumer.
Suley Muratoglu from Tetra Pak (1) underlines this statement. He argues that the demographic trends are clear. A large and upward trending percentage of the population lives in cities, and packaging for urban-dwellers should take into account that many of them walk, take public transportation and live in smaller spaces. That coupled with the one- to two-person size of most households today, means that food and beverage packaging must offer a range of sizes while still answering to the typical consumer requirements.
These consumers tend to shop every one to two days and are far less likely to engage in “stock up” kinds of shopping trips. Effective packaging for this cohort should leave behind the heft and the bulk, offering optimal protection for their food while being easy to lift and carry without a car.
All this arguments and predictions point in the direction of the neighbourhood supermarkets, the corner shop, the discounter, the convenience store and similar outlets. It’s obvious that this has a direct influence on packaging in the first place, particularly in regard to the supply chain.
Consequently it will be the packaging in the supply chain that will dominate the developments in the 2015 packaging field.
It’s common practice to use RRP (retail-ready packaging) to replenish the shelves of sales outlets. Less and less shops are emptying boxes to place the goods individually on the shelves. More and more it’s common to tear open the special construction of the box and put the RRP on display. The RRP became a well-established component within the retailing mix, and in principle has as much validity within a convenience outlet as in a fully stocked supermarket. The smaller size of store with limited shelf-space, however, will be more practicably served by smaller outer tray sizes and a reduced number of facings (3).
Tony Foster, sales and marketing director of DS Smith Packaging sees downsizing as the most likely core change to the format, arguing that “The RRP format that supermarkets are used to delivering optimum shelf-fill and ease of replenishment, isn’t simply transferable to convenience; fundamentally, the units are too large. Brand owners are going to have to offer more formats; they can’t carry on doing twelves and so on if it’s demanded that they do a single row of six. With less available shelf-space in a convenience outlet, brand owners are going to have to fight even harder to gain access. What will play a major role in determining how well they succeed in getting listed is how good, easy, attractive and labour-saving their on-shelf packaging is. The ingenuity of the RRP-packs has to increase in order that their size can reduce” (3).
The conclusion might be that the RRP will become the dominant packaging factor in 2015, that doesn’t mean that we have to keep stuck with the often faceless, unattractive RRP-packs now circulating in the market. There is little done by designers in the past to put the RRP on the forefront. But if, and I think there is a good chance that the Staff of Packaging News are correct and the shopping habits of the consumer will see a dramatic change in 2015, packaging designers and engineers need a lot of creativity to avoid an absolute unattractive panorama in the aisles of the sales outlets. The existing RRP’s aren’t showing any invitation to the consumer to purchase the product. And although the argument of Foster, that the RRP needs downsizing, is valid, it isn’t only the downsizing that counts, but the creativity in the presentation, either with high-tech gadgets or with clever constructions. Here the prediction of Canadean that changing consumer attitude will mean that many brands will face the danger of fading into the background, might hit the consumer goods companies with full force.
Of course there is much more to say and predict in regard to structural and technological packaging design. Look at sustainability, digital printing, electronics, among others. For all my readers who aren’t satisfied with seeing the changing shopping habits as the number 1 factor in 2015, I will detail some expectations in packaging designs in my next article.