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Product Packaging | The Silent Salesman | Importance of Packaging in FMCG

In this article, we will discuss the importance of Packaging from a Marketing/Sales point of view along with a few other functional benefits of a correct packaging strategy.

Also, we will talk about the innovation in packaging using successful case studies.

We will not talk about Price Pack Architecture (PPA). Here is the link to the separate article on PPA. PPA is more related to the technical/profitability/penetration aspects while here we will talk more from the consumer & design point of view.

Price Pack Architecture serves as the brain, whereas packaging design functions as the heart.

Flow of this article: (You can directly click to get there)

What is a Packaging?

Everyone deserves a place to live; a place where they can relax; a place where they feel safe; a place that vibes with their personality. What humans call home, for chocolate or chips, is called packaging.

Packaging is where these delightful & delicious things live. Packaging is more like a caravan than a home as these tasty things also travel in them until one fine day a human tears their home & puts them in a mouth. Eww! Yuck ☹ 

Packaging comes in different forms and shapes. It can be made from paper, plastic, cardboard, tin, aluminium, polymers, glass, etc. Based upon the need & greed, packaging material varies.

Here we will talk more about the functional aspects of packaging rather than the strategic aspect. (PPA will teach about strategic aspects).

Below are 6 major functions:

  1. Identification of your product from the rest. Packing provides you with the opportunity to attract a potential consumer. It provides a platform to stand out from the ocean of Me-too products.

  2. Transportation: Safe transit from manufacturer to end consumer.

  3. Storage: Efficient storage and protection from wear & tear.

  4. Communication about key information to your consumer. Key information may contain ingredients, dietary chart & nutritional information. It also contains various certifications which help consumers to choose wisely.

  5. Usability or consumption requirements. A bottle of Coke, which is a part of the packaging, is also used to consume it. The same can’t be said about Parle-G.

  6. Legal requirements as per the law of the land. Govt. have certain guidelines for manufacturers to put/print on a pack. E.g. Smoking Kills are printed almost across the globe as a legal requirement.

We will elaborate on 1, 4 and 5 of the above points in detail later.

But before that let’s check the three levels of packaging for most products. (Except for Cars where there isn’t a box around).

Most products have the 3 levels of packaging namely primary, secondary, and tertiary. The exception to this case can be a tiny consumable item like a candy or shampoo sachet where a layer gets added or it can be a huge item like a car.

Level 1 - Primary Packaging:

Primary packing is what consumers tear while using the product. It’s a box of an iPhone you tear while unboxing it or a bag of chips you broke while watching a cricket match.

It’s the packing that makes a handshake with your end user.

The primary pack needs to be most well thought out from the marketing perspective as it has a direct impact on the acceptance or onboarding of your product. Packaging comes before product; you cannot solely rely on a good inside product if your outside packing sucks.

Materials Utilized in Primary Packaging: Plastic, paper, cardboard, tin, aluminium, and glasses are generally used.

Level 2 - Secondary Packaging:

It groups a bunch of primary packs and usually, the end consumers of secondary packs are retailers unless you are one big fan of Coke & buy an entire box of cans.

Secondary packaging is focused on the storage & safety of the product. It needs to be sturdy enough to save the inside packs from any external impact.

Materials Utilized in Secondary Packaging: Secondary packaging is composed of materials such as cardboard, paperboard, and shrink wraps, which help maintain the integrity of the primary packaging.


Level 3 - Tertiary Packaging:

Mostly, distributors & wholesalers have these big packs which encompass a bunch of secondary packaging.

The primary function of this packaging is product preservation during transportation & storage. This packaging makes days of journey from manufacturing hub to distributors in trucks or ships hence, the utmost importance is needed on the strength of packaging.

Materials utilized in the Tertiary stage: Typical options consist of pallets, wooden crates, and shrink wrap, selected according to the requirements of the cargo.

Let us discuss 3 consumer-centric functions of packaging which significantly influence your brand's performance:

Function 1:  Identification of your product from the rest:

Packaging serves as a tangible medium to communicate a brand’s value, identity and ethos, thereby plays a crucial role in building recognition & conveying a uniform message to the consumers.

There are two types of companies, the big one & the small one. Big ones are usually the boring ones when it comes to packing aesthetics & they are right to not worry about it.

But before we criticize big companies about their boring packaging, let’s understand packaging a bit more.

Packaging consists of 6 key aspects as below:

  1. Theme: It defines the basic approach of your packaging. The rest of the 5 aspects are built around the theme. E.g. Is your packaging loud or minimalistic? Is it pompous or simple? Is it futuristic or rustic?

  2. Typeface: It focuses on the font or text you decide to use in your print.

  3. Illustration: It's the picture or abstract you have decided for your packaging.

  4. Colour: Every packaging adopts the theme colours.

  5. Material: The quality & type of the material used in packaging. Also, the material which supports the product is to be chosen. You cannot pack dumbells in a box of chocolates.

  6. Accessory: It's the sort of appendage to makes the packaging look more premium & innovative. Most of the time, they are grossly unnecessary & add nothing but cost. E.g. A box with a ribbon or a jar with a cloth pack.

Let's see the pack design of fast food takeaway from Spanish burger joint BACOA.

To refine our concept, let's compare Big company packaging (Adidas) Vs. Small company packaging (Lollia).

The design and colour are the less expensive part of any packaging’s overall cost.

It is the material used to make the packaging & the accessories which adds the wow factor adds costs. The more accessories or appendages your packaging has, the more expensive your packaging becomes.

One of the negatives of adding accessories is that it tends to wither faster & doesn’t suit prolonged storage or rough handling.

Let’s circle back to the two types of companies, the big companies have huge consignments & low margins, hence they tend to avoid unnecessary investment in accessories & material costs.

While small niche companies in order to differentiate themselves from the rest, invest in a high level of personalization & innovation in packaging.

Function 2: Communication about key information to your consumer:

As stated earlier, packaging provides a medium to communicate what the company believes in, a company that advocates sustainability will put values delineating how eco-friendly the product is, while a company that advocates a healthy lifestyle will put how beneficial the product is, and similarly, a company who advocates body positivity will try to communicate those values in their packaging.

Let’s take 3 examples to clarify this concept:

Example A: Dove’s Body positive bottles:

In 2017, Dove surprised consumers by launching packs in different shapes to promote body positivity stating,

“Real beauty comes in all shapes and sizes — and now our body wash bottles do too,”.

Dove tried to convey how their pack doesn’t differentiate between how a person looks.

Example B: Patagonia Baselayer Packaging:

Patagonia is a company widely known for its sustainable processes. Right from the way they manufacture their products to the supply chain, everything keeps sustainability in mind.

Patagonia required an improved packaging solution for distribution, purchase, and consumption, with the additional goal of reducing materials in the supply chain to minimize environmental impact. They sought a solution that would:

  • To establish a lively presence on the shelf that attracts consumers' attention and reflects the product's quality accurately.

  • The packaging system should be user-friendly and enhance the product's display in retail settings.

  • Despite incorporating additional materials, the new design must prioritize environmental sustainability.

  • The packaging should produce a dynamic and eye-catching showcase on the shelf.

The look and feel of the new package were kept functional and on-brand for Patagonia. The corrugate is left in its natural state with minimal printing, using stickers to designate style, color and size. The front of the package easily opens to reveal the baselayer inside and gives the customer easy access to touch the material or remove and replace the baselayer.

The hex nuts that Yvon Chouinard and Tom Frost invented as an environmentally friendly climbing tool, named Hexentrics, inspired the final baselayer package. This hexagonal package shape uses 100 percent post-consumer waste corrugate, which is easily recycled.

Example C - The Whole Truth Food Company:

Another interesting packaging story is from the Whole Truth Food Company which screams about the brutal truth about their ingredients in their packaging and they are changing the way traditional food companies used to deceptively market their products with Half-truth & sometimes white lies.

Their package provides copious details about the ingredients they used along with ingredients they have not used which traditional companies use.

Function 3 - Usability or consumption requirements:

Packaging also serves as an enabler for consumption/utility.

Have you ever tried mango Frooti from Parle-ConAgro? You don’t need a glass to pour your Frooti, you simply take the attached straw and poke into the whole & sip. An upgrade over the attached straw is the Hershey’s Sofit which has inbuilt cap which you can close if you are not in the mood to drink the entire thing.

Another popular example is Cuppa noodles where you just have to add hot water in your cuppa and have noodles right inside the cup.

Another popular example is microwave popcorn packs or pizza packs which you just have to toss inside the microwave & voila, it's done.

In this last section, we will now discuss case studies of a few innovative solutions in packaging which is changing the world:

Case 1 - Edible Packaging: Eat your food and the wrapping too:

According to a report by the World Economic Forum, global consumption of plastic packaging to reach 297 million tonnes by 2025 generating tonnes of polluting wastes.

To address this problem, edible packaging was invented. It is made of natural materials like seaweed, algae, rice, corn, etc.

Companies like Wikipearl, Evoware, Loliware and Ooho are innovating in edible packaging and biodegradable packaging which can change the world of packaging in the next decade.

Case 2 - Minimalist Packaging: The current trend among D2C brands.

Minimalist Packaging design is making waves among companies. Everyone wants to jump on the trend wagon due to FOMO.

Minimalism means the removal of everything which is not needed in the design. It's like a lean version of a design. Less is more. Removal of every extra element will lead to a beautiful design. That’s minimalism.

Key Risks in Adopting Minimalism in Packaging:

  • One key consideration is how well minimalism can compete as an artistic style in the food packaging industry. After all, stripping one element too far can disrupt what is supposed to be an emotional packaging experience.

  • Your first risk is not standing out on the shelf. If your packaging is too simple and stripped back, there’s the chance that it may not stand out against your bolder competitors. If you want to position your brand as ‘premium’ but priced competitively, your customer may be put off by thinking it is far more expensive than it is at first glance.

  • Poorly thought-out minimalism can simultaneously slip into bland branding. Our job is to ensure that we understand consumer shifts and tap into those through impactful and effective design that lasts and isn’t just a fleeting trend.

From where the minimalism came?

Minimalism is not new, long before when print technology was not advanced, most brands were minimalist in nature. When advanced printing and graphic designing came, every brand started to experiment with pompous graphics.

If you really dig deep, everything is cyclical in nature, you have seen it in the fashion industry, how old fashion becomes new trends and this cycle repeats itself.

Case 3 - Visually overloaded extreme packaging:

On one side, we find those who prefer minimalism, while on the opposite end, there are enthusiasts of extravagant, overwhelming packaging who strive to capture every bit of consumer attention.

I prefer over-the-top packaging as the minimalist packaging is so lifeless & boring af.

The biggest problem with sensory overload packaging is getting the design right, colours right and the right packaging quality. For minimalists, it is not so much difficult as it is for the overloaded ones.

Any lapse in colour printing will lead to massive backlash or anything off with the design and customers will dump you. For minimalists, the task is less risky.

Again, the main thing here is to resonate with your brand. If you are a loud energy-shot brand whose brand ambassadors are Swedish EDM artists, then minimalism doesn’t suit you.

But if your CEO walks barefooted and wears Yoga pants all day and frequently visits India for Nirvana, then maybe you are a minimalist sort of company.

Here are some cool overloaded designs that take your breath away. Enjoy.

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