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10.11.2020 -

Packaging is a masterpiece of product concept.

Hand up how many have ever chosen a product in a store based on its packaging? I confess that I have! As you fly past the shelves, your choice from the dozens of similar options is strangely made easier if one product stands out from the crowd with its attractive packaging.

“It’s about conceptualization.” Hanna Lehtonen says. The shape, material and design of the packaging send a strong message to the consumer about the image and quality of the  product and the kind of consumer the product is intended for.

“Consumers nowadays are well informed and become easily irritated if the packaging does not meet the characteristics set for it.” Lehtonen continues…. and she knows what she is talking about, as she has more than two decades of work experience in packaging development as a developer of pharmaceutical, bakery and confectionery packaging. Hanna is the woman behind several packaging material launches. The most recent of these are the completely new types of wood and bio-based packaging launched by Fazer Confectionery: a gift box made of Sulapac® material for handmade chocolates and a bag pack of chocolate products made of Paptic Gavia® material.

What are the benefits for the company to be the first launching a new packaging material?

“The biggest benefit of bringing new packaging material to market is the media attention and marketing value that the company and product receive. When we are, as they say, at the leading-edge. it indicates that the company is “awake”. The company earns the stamp of the pioneer. In addition, working with new materials is also hugely inspiring and instructive.” Lehtonen says.

Being the first to bring a new packaging material into the food industry is by no means problem-free. The packaging partner is required to do a lot of work, for example to guarantee the packaging material meets the quality guidelines for food packaging. The packaging material quality claims must be validated and certified suitable for food use. “During the product development process the product cannot be launched until the product packaging has been guaranteed to be safe,” she continues.

It is also important to consider the behaviour of the new packaging material in the production process. The production lines for finished products are often sensitive to even small material changes, in which case new materials inevitably challenge production-scale activity. In addition to this, the printing and moulding for a new packaging material to achieve the desired result takes its own time. Switching to a new packaging material often also generates internal pressure between different functions within the organisation. Most often is boils down to a question of money and which department ends up paying for the difference between the traditional packaging material and new more expensive material. Contrary to what one might think, this additional cost is very rarely passed on to the consumer.

The future of the packaging industry?

While large confectionery operators have hundreds of tested packaging materials at their disposal, they are also under strong pressure to find and test new materials. This is driven by social responsibility programs and strategies, which, alongside the new packaging materials, also aim to reduce the quantity of packaging and improve the education of consumers on the correct recycling of packaging.

The growing demand for and supply of bio-based materials coupled with the EU’s plastics strategy, which requires that by 2030 all plastic packaging be either recyclable or reusable, will also bring added tension to the future of the packaging industry.

According to Lehtonen, continued development of these strategies and programmes would have occurred even without the impact of Covid-19. However now it remains to be seen how much the financial challenges caused by the coronavirus will hamper long product development projects in the packaging industry. “What’s positive, though, is how Covid-19 has eased the image of plastics as being so bad. It is understood that packaging plays a key role in protecting the product and maintaining hygiene. One will remember the value of the package.” Hanna Lehtonen concludes.

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