Packaging in FMCG sector cannot be undermined and in fact has become more important than ever in the day and age we live.
Ever increasing consumer awareness coupled up with slit-throat competition is posing marketers with a rather unique challenge – relentless packaging innovation. Your favourite brand of biscuits will soon lose fizz if its packaging does not keep pace with time. 90% of the customers today do a thorough background check well before buying a product. Some of the most common ways of doing this are through online reviews, checking ingredients and visiting the website claims a popular online survey. Consumers are demanding more value for every single penny that they put in for a product.
Packaging – one of the key P’s in marketing is by far the most pivotal communication bridge between consumers and brand owners by the virtue of engaging graphics, colors, imagery, product information, and logos among other factors. It is the reflection of brand commitment in an endeavour to distinguish the product from competition. Packaging forms the first tryst between the product and the buyer. A lot rests on the shoulder of this silent salesperson that has to do that extra work in order to get noticed and picked from the retail shelf. Over the years the role of packaging has transcended much beyond merely wrapping the product.
Packaging in FMCG sector cannot be undermined and in fact has become more important than ever in the day and age we live. Assocham-TechSci Research report elucidates that India’s FMCG market is expected to more than double to $104 billion by 2020 from the present $49 billion.
The flexible packaging industry in India is estimated at $12-15 billion (out of the total packaging market of $30-35 billion) and is growing anywhere between 15-17% per annum. The growth rate is all poised to accelerate to almost 20% in a few years from now.
I can think of the following five factors that have a bearing on packaging globally: Aesthetics; Functionality; Barrier Properties; Anti-Counterfeiting features and Environmental Sustainability.
Let’s understand these one by one.
The global axiom says that anything that is appealing to the eyes is quite likely to make that final cut at the already cluttered retail shelf. In aesthetics I would include shape of the pack, artwork of the brand and the associated colour scheme. Visualise a detergent brand in a profile pack of a T-shirt or a skirt for that matter. Won’t it be a head turner?
Functionality of packaging cannot be emphasized enough. Right from the ergonomic delight of picking up the pack; to the ease of opening it; option of re-closing or resealing for deferred use without the fear of spoilage; value added functionality has become inalienable to the overall product experience. Say for instance, lifting up a rice pack of 10 kg can be quite a task through the conventional tasselled thread handle (Dori Handle). Providing a handle on the side gusset of a 3D pack and lifting it in a perpendicular direction will simply shift down the centre of gravity of the load which in turn will proportionately decrease the physical strain on hands. This is a classic example of functionality that packaging experts can play around to a brand’s advantage. Would you prefer a less enchanting rice pack that would require you to decant the entire product in a separate container over a swanky looking pack that has a Slide to Close or Press to Close Zipper? The answer is a no brainer! Isn’t it? If you have experienced the angst of peeling off the lid cover of a disposable water glass with more than your might and still unable to do it, then you exactly understand, what I mean by functionality of packaging.
Within functionality, I would also club value added factors like active modified atmospheric packaging; smart/ intelligent packaging that can render much better value for consumers than the conventional packaging. Bar codes, RFID Labels and tags are spelling tremendous ease to all stakeholders that deal with the product at different points within the value chain. Today packaging can change colour to indicate that the product inside is not fit for consumption. Such are the wonders of functionally agile packaging!
Packaging is an art much as the science that it is. For the time being let’s restrict the purview of our discussion to food products. Chips would require very different packaging from sugar. Wheat flour packaging will be very different from that for dry fruits. Milk would require a much stringent packaging than that for salt. Here comes the role of barrier properties that the product to be packaged would require. Based on the barrier to oxygen; water vapour and other gases the packaging engineers design the structure of a pack.
Brands have a persona – an equity that is not built overnight. You can well understand the pain of a brand owner when the product is body doubled for gaining few quick bucks but eroding years and years of credibility. Imagine consuming spurious and adulterated flour that came in a packaging that looked as authentic as original. Once you open the pack and use the product to your horror, you will think thrice before picking it up at the supermarket the next time you go shopping for your groceries. In this entire episode you were perhaps at a onetime loss, but the brand just lost a customer who is not likely to come back ever. If you add to it the foul word of mouth then the damage is even multiplied. Therefore the packaging should be protected with the help of latest brand protection technologies like Fresnel lens, holograms, unigrams, latentograms among several others. Having these emblems is not a luxury anymore; it is pretty much a necessity in these times for keeping the fake and spurious at bay and protecting the brand equity from being irretrievably lost.
Brand owners and consumers are becoming more conscientious than ever when it comes to environmental impact of packaging of products they use. Here flexible packaging scores all brownie points above rigid packaging for obvious factors like light weight; reduction at source; less energy required for manufacturing; transportation and disposal among several others. Flexible packaging has metamorphosed the very way goods are sold and bought in the market across the world.
Brands are doing anything and everything it takes to hone this last mile silent salesperson called packaging which swings into action when the magic of above the line marketing starts fading away inside a severely cluttered supermarket. It is an investment that shall pay off in the long run.