Shifting retail scene jumbles packaging's direction
Springtime seems to be prime time for industry conferences and association meetings. Over the last few months I have been able to attend just a fraction of these events—but enough to get a feel for some of the hot topics facing consumer packaged goods companies and their packaging suppliers.
Over and over again, we heard about e-commerce and sustainability. That sustainability is still a burning issue surprised me a bit. I thought it was now just a concern that every company incorporated into its package planning. However, material choices and recycling apparently are still very hot buttons.
The retail industry seems to be in the throes of upheaval. E-commerce is taking hold at the expense of brick-and-mortar stores. At the same time, Amazon—the gorilla in the room—is buying Whole Foods markets. Walmart, which owns the most stores of any retailer, is also investing heavily in e-commerce capabilities.
Both companies are expanding their private brands. While they do that, European grocery discounters Aldi and Lidl are launching an invasion of their own. Those two companies, who specialize in store-branded products that undercut national brands’ prices by up to 50 percent, plan to open hundreds of stores in the U.S. this year.
Where does that leave packaging? You could say it is the best of times and the worst of times. Some may be concerned that e-commerce may diminish the marketing function of packaging as consumers won’t actually see it until they’ve already bought it. Private brands are often considered followers of national brands in packaging design.
But things are changing there, too. In one presentation, Amazon addressed how the company is exploring the sustainability of its packaging and encouraging product branding of the secondary packaging being shipped to customers. Meanwhile, private brands are developing multi-tiered product lines with well-developed and inventive branding and packaging. It just goes to show that even in changing markets, opportunities always exist.
DESIGN GALLERY NOMINATIONS OPEN
Speaking of packaging opportunities, BRANDPackaging once again is accepting nominations for its Design Gallery awards in which we honor packages that effectively tell a brand’s story through graphic and structural design. Nominations can be submitted online at www.brandpackaging.com. But don’t wait! Deadline for entries is August 7, 2017. Winners will be announced at the Packaging That Sells Conference, Oct. 23-25 in Chicago.