In this edition of Pack Snacks, Esko’s Product Managers, Susie Stitzel and Richard Deroo and Global Marketing Solutions Manager, Kathy Drommerhausen discuss Tetra Pak’s new material effects and online retail’s packaging problem. 

We also discuss packaging specifications and the complications of consistent accurate production, as well as artificial intelligence and the way it could benefit those in the packaging industry. 

Special effects: Tetra Pak offers eye-catching options

In a recent article from Food Dive, Tetra Pak announced they are using holographics, metallic and paperboard effects on packaging to create more customizable options for brands. With crowded shelves, Tetra Pak hopes to help brands stand out more with unique and high-end effects. A recent survey by Luminer found that 53 percent of shoppers are drawn to bright colors in packaging. (We also talked about this preference for bright colors in our latest packaging trends piece.)

Susie Stitzel: The brick packaging type commonly used for milk and juice has been around forever and is very common. I’m wondering if there has been an overall trend towards more flexible and plastic packaging? If yes, Tetra Pak may have been motivated to create new material effects to help stay innovative.

Richard Deroo: That would make sense as I see this complements the trend toward “structural innovation” in packaging. Marketing and design are naturally concerned with the color and graphics on the package as a way to attract the consumer, but the shape of packaging is just as important. In order for brands to better understand consumer desires, CAD design software and virtual and augmented reality can enable the brands to design unique packaging shapes, visualize the unique characteristics and test the consumer appeal of a new premium packaging design.

Kathy Drommerhausen: But it’s still important to remember that brands will need to make sure shapes fit and that any structural changes allow for minimal overall changes to the line, too. It wouldn’t be ideal to implement changes and then have to create a bunch of line variations. There are lots of moving parts to consider within structural innovation in packaging. Tetra Pak’s new material effects allow for more customization to preexisting packaging types; avoiding the need for the manufacturer to switch packaging formats or purchase new equipment but still giving the packaging a customized feel.

Can Online Retail Solve Its Packaging Problem?

With the growth of e-commerce comes more and more boxes delivered to doorsteps. Reusable packaging companies are trying to mitigate the waste from the billions of online purchases made each year, but how well are these companies performing? Are these initiatives and reusable packaging start-ups being used by brands?

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Richard Deroo: An issue I have with the “Amazon Effect” is the massive volume of over-sized packaging. How many times do you receive your e-commerce goods in an oversized shipping box filled with more air than the actual product inside?  This also contributes to the growing piles of material waste and increase in shipping costs for the retailers and consumer.  

A structural design solution should be tightly integrated with a shipping and logistics solution so that it can right-size the primary and secondary packaging to eliminate this waste. This means that the packaging is more sustainable within its first use and done the right way the first time around – this also saves brands money.

Susie Stitzel: You know, this packaging system by LimeLoop is a clever idea – “reusing” a package by sending it back to the brand after you’ve received your item. And they’re right, they are saving trees – but here’s the catch: they aren’t disclosing how much fossil fuels are being used when sending that package back to the distribution center. That’s what I’d really like to know.

Kathy Drommerhausen: This concept is more sustainable for the environment, but not so for small businesses. A small company has limited scope and resources and there are other sustainability initiatives they can put in place first that are more cost-effective and environmentally friendly (such as structural design technology solutions like Richard mentioned).

Here’s an idea: it would be really interesting if Amazon would start cutting its own boxes to fit the size of the goods inside. This would be a benefit in using less material per box, saving space in a truck, which saves fuel and number of trips and would allow fulfillment centers to reduce the inventory of boxes to make more room for more saleable products. It takes less than two minutes to cut a corrugated box on a Kongsberg table, so I doubt this would add any real time to the delivery turnaround.

The Hidden Power of Specifications

Those in the packaging industry are all too familiar with packaging specifications. Whether project managers and packaging engineers love or hate specs, it’s a mandatory to-do as a product works its way through the value chain. Senior leadership may not know how valuable it is to carefully document and then leverage packaging specs. Tending to your specifications can help you save money with suppliers and ensure your product packaging is consistent for your consumers. What tools are needed and how can we simplify the process?

Kathy Drommerhausen: We hear so many customers say, Microsoft Word is just no longer cutting it – but they are forced to use a generic solution like this because of limited options available in the marketplace. Brand owners always think to utilize the easiest options available (Microsoft Suite) but eventually realize that tools truly need to be fit-for-purpose.

Richard Deroo: Yes, Word doesn’t cover all the project manager’s needs. Sometimes a project manager will tell me that they’ve implemented another tool like Excel to enhance the spec process and they quickly acquire an array of tools to manage everything…

Susie Stitzel: It’s like a handy-man using a multi-function pocketknife to fix a broken stair versus the craftsman using a specific tool for each facet of the repair. The specificity of packaging tools makes them invaluable to the overall process. Often times it is a matter of cost versus quality scenarios for departments when utilizing the right technology but having a powerful searchable tool is beneficial.

This AI Knows When Your Graphic Design is Good (or Bad)

Banner ads catch eyes, and a Berlin-based company EyeQuant uses eye-tracking technology to evaluate the usability of websites. Now, it’s training artificial intelligence to predict what banner ads actually resonate with consumers – with 85% accuracy.

Susie Stitzel: Artificial intelligence is already being used in packaging with tools such as store visualizer, but this particular technology by EyeQuant could easily be translated in packaging. Instead of looking at the snappiest banners, it could be the snappiest packaging.

Kathy Drommerhausen: Yes, eye tracking is not necessarily new but the quality of the tracking is what makes it impactful and helpful. EyeQuant is creepy but promising – I think we should be asking ourselves how this type of technology could be built into packaging and design software in the future. Wouldn’t it be nice to see options and design suggestions based on the popularity of previous designs?

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