At this year’s Flexographic Technical Association Forum in Baltimore, MD, USA, flexo professionals from around the country gathered to discuss the past, present and future of this essential printing technology. Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at market research firm Mintel, offered the audience a very interesting view on the future of packaging – and encouraged those in the audience to think about how flexo can be a part of it.
In her presentation, Groundbreaking Design: What’s Next for Packaging?, Dornblaser discussed the things that drive consumer behavior, as well as how those behaviors effect packaging.
“Packaging,” she said, “enhances functionality, tells the story of a product, enhances its convenience and value, and, its just plain cool.”
Dornblaser said that there are three primary trends for those in the flexo industry, as well as other packaging-related industries, to consider: “Experience is All,” “A Simple Balance for Health,” and “FSTR & HYPR” (faster & hyper).
“Experience is All” is a category of packaging driven largely by the unprecedented connectivity by today’s consumers. “They crave experience more than they ever have due to retailers’ over-emphasis on speed, convenience and etc.,” Dornblaser said.
An example of this trend driving packaging, Dornblaser showed the audience Philadelphia cream cheese packaged in its standard cardboard box, a plastic tub, and a packet. In each of those packaging scenarios, the consumer is connected to the product in a different way, she said. When the cream cheese is packaged in a tub, it can be marketed as a cooking crème, she said. When its in a packet, consumers are told to “simply stir” and squeeze the cream cheese into a cooking skillet. By simply changing the packaging, consumers are able to envision a variety of uses for the food product.
Another category, “A Simple Balance for Health,” is driven by consumers’ desire for healthy lifestyles (and for products that will help them achieve that lifestyle).
“Ninety-two percent of US consumers say that health is about moderation,” Dornblaser said. As a result, products now aim to send healthy messages to consumers.
As an example, Quinn popcorn now sells flavor packets with its popcorn, giving consumers the opportunity to control the amount of flavoring – and, potentially, calories – that they consume.
Dornblaser also said that packaging has the ability to help consumers eat well. Many people know that they should be eating fish, she said, “but no one wants to buy fresh fish and cook that.” Packaging that removes the smell of fish can encourage people to purchase it and, therefore, increase their overall health.
In another example, Dornblaser showed the audience packaging available in Japan that was designed specifically with senior citizens in mind.
“In Japan, universal design food categorization describes the ease of eating for foods aimed at seniors,” she said.
The food categorization packages are broken down into three categories. Foods labeled with a 1 are easily chewable; 2: can be broken down with just the gums; and 3: can be broken down with the tongue.
“Seniors in Japan are revered and respected,” Dornblaser added. “Not like in the US where they’re considered ‘out of touch.”
The final trend for packaging insiders to consider is FSTR & HYPR, which stems from consumers’ constant connectivity. As Dornblaser pointed out, there are 2.5 billion mobile phones on the planet. “People are always connected,” she said.
One example of packaging that has embodied this trend is a Heinz ketchup label in the UK that used augmented reality to turn the packaging label into a recipe book. After the release of that label, Dornblaser said, Heinz’s Facebook page in the UK had 283,000 “likes.”
Another way this trend has been utilized is through “virtual shopping.” Tesco, a large chain grocer in the UK, tested the idea of virtual shopping in Seoul in 2011. The following year, the company launched an interactive shop in England’s Gatwick Airport. And in the US, Peapod markets launched virtual shopping markets in Chicago’s public transit stations last year. At these virtual food markets, consumers can buy items by using a free app on their smartphones. At the time of their announcement, Peapod said in a statement that commuters using the virtual markets can “get orders started, make selections from Peapod’s entire online store, and schedule home deliveries.”
While brand owners should consider these trends when making their packaging decisions, Dornblaser also pointed out that too much connectivity can backfire. “Though 31% of cell phone owners believe texting is just as meaningful as actual conversation, 60% of consumers agree that people need to set time aside to disconnect from being online.”