Let's Muse About the Future of Packaging – MGS is Preparing, Are You?

To a consumer, product packaging may be a secondary consideration to the product inside the package. Companies devote countless hours designing a product, making sure it offers the absolute best value and experience to the customer. But let's take a second and think about the last time you bought a product from Apple, an iPhone, iPad, or Macbook, and you weren't impressed with the way it was presented in the packaging? Opening the box of a new iPhone is an experience in and of itself!

Smart product companies know their packaging is more than a corrugated box, plastic bag, or folding carton. Product packaging is a powerful tool used to amplify a brand and build a connection with the consumer. Your packaging possesses a unique asset: it provides you with an opportunity to give your customers a guaranteed sensory experience, both sight, touch, and sometimes even smell.

At the grocery store, a consumer can pass, on average, over 39,000 items while shopping. How does a product stand out on the shelves? Many brand-owners accomplish this by pushing the boundaries with their packaging and printed graphics. For a package to stand out, designers and brand-owners use different types of plastics and foils, "eye-popping" graphics, creatively shaped packaging, or point-of-purchase displays. But what if the way people shop for groceries changes?

Forbes predicts from 2017 to 2021, online grocery shopping in the U.S. will more than double (1), and I think it's safe to say they are correct. With more and more shopping moving to e-commerce, what does this mean for flexible packaging? Will CPGs spend more of their budget on online product positioning and less on the packaging? Maybe not, but there may be a shift in what is essential in packaging – think less "flash," but more substance with anti-counterfeiting measures. Consumers often buy products from brands they know and trust, and recognizable branding is vital to hold that trust. As shopping moves online, the branding on the packaging must be maintained, so consumers know they are receiving the product they ordered and not a counterfeit. If CPGs adjust their packaging to have less "eye-catching" graphics to a more fundamental physical package, we expect to see anti-counterfeiting measures put into place during the printing process.

Another question we must ask ourselves is how the shift to online shopping will affect the corrugated market? If the grocery store market moves more and more online, meaning a single product is shipped to you versus a brick and mortar grocery store, the box the product is shipped in will become just as important as the actual product packaging seen on the shelves. Corrugated boxes with bold print may become the norm – think of boxes like home meal kits, or boxes from the pet supply store, chewy.com. They are distinctive packages that both protect the product inside and tell the story of the brand.

As grocery shopping moves online, products that were typically shipped in bulk to a distribution center or store may now ship individually direct to a consumer…how, will this affect packaging? A pallet of laundry detergent bottles is well protected by the structure of the pallet and packaging. However, when a consumer purchases liquid laundry detergent online, the packaging it is shipping in (a smaller corrugated box) can be less secure. This could lead to dents in the bottles or, even worse, the product leaking in transit. Now think about your normal in-store shopping habits, would you pick a dented laundry detergent bottle or one that appears to have leaked? Most likely not. Imagine receiving laundry detergent shipped to your door that is somehow damaged, what type of cognitive dissonance would you have? Would you, being the average consumer, have negative thoughts towards the online store, the shipping company, or the CPG brand...or all three? Suddenly, brands must now design products and product packaging that ship direct to a consumer and arrive at their door with the same high quality they expect to see on the store shelf.

Flexographic printing, a lower cost, longer run, faster turnaround printing method is well-positioned to continue as the #1 printing method for flexible packaging. Plus, flexography is an ideal option for post-print corrugated. Photopolymer printing plates are a crucial aspect of the continued success and growth of flexo in these markets. At MacDermid, we are closely monitoring all areas of the packaging and printing markets as we develop new products. A great example is our newly-released LUX ITPTM EDGE, a photopolymer plate designed to print high-end, high linescreen graphics directly on corrugated. Or our LUX ITP 60 plate, capable of printing the finest details to maintain the anti-counterfeiting measures that brand-owners are implementing into their packaging designs. At MacDermid, we are not only experts in printing plate technology; we are experts in all-things flexo.

So that is what I think, let me know your thoughts on the future of printed packaging. Add your comments below or connect with me on LinkedIn to discuss further.

Link with Jason Cagle

Written By: Jason Cagle, Account Manager - MacDermid Graphics Solutions

Jason Cagle entered the printing industry in 2013, working at Clemson University, in South Carolina, where he performed various research projects and collaborations pertaining to flexography. During his time at Clemson, Jason received a Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Communications with a minor in Business Administration. Jason started his career at MacDermid Graphics Solutions as a member of the Applications Development Team in the spring of 2016.  In this role, Jason aided MGS customers with technical print and plate support, while assisting the Research & Development Team, developing and bringing to market new photopolymer plate technologies. Jason is an FTA FIRST implementation specialist. Jason's latest accomplishment was being honored as the 2018 recipient of the FTA Presidents Award.


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