How Mars is innovating packaging design

Why it’s important to innovate packaging design? The answer is simple. The package is the ultimate and final stage product promotion. As Kannan Iyenger, regional commercial manager, packaging graphics and print technology manager, MARS GCC FZE, explains, the packaging is the most important media to stop the consumer, hold the consumer’s attention and make them buy the product.

13 Jul 2018 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

Iyenger spoke on ‘Innovations in packaging designs’ at the 6th annual Innopack F&B 2018 Confex held on 5 - 6 April 2018 at The Westin in Mumbai.

He said innovation drives relevance and differentiation and create value to customers. It can also help find new products and generate growth.

Iyenger said the first step to product innovation is a 360 degrees approach, from how to sell a product to what kind of products to sell. In this, the key is to under the customer psyche. Customers today are demanding and they want everything in their package — look and feel; product safety; sustainability; personalisation; convenience; simplicity; technology innovation and so on.

In his presentation, Iyenger explained how these aspects of packaging design can be achieved.

Packaging shapes and creative design

Iyenger said customers are attracted to natural shape of a product with natural colour art design. This gives the product an organic identification and it appears attractive to health-conscious customers.

He gave the example of juice box designs by Japanese industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa, who imagined that if the surface of the package imitated the colour and texture of the fruit skin, then the object would reproduce the feeling of the real skin.

So, the cartons he designed for fruit juices not just resemble the colour of the actual fruit, but also the texture. So the box containing strawberry has scarlet colour and dotted surface like a real strawberry skin, and the boxes containing coconut juice are brown and textured.

Smart packaging

Iyengar said while QR codes are now common, smart packaging must contain other technology innovations like near field communication (NFC tags); radio frequency identification (RFID) and invisible bar codes.


Sustainability concerns includes looking into issues like using light-weight packaging; substrates with easy recyclability; using edible films and warps; cellulose, fibre and resin and plant-based polymers.

He gave the example of Mars chocolate which uses starch-based packaging material.

Starch is a natural polymer that can be incorporated in various materials. Starch-based plastics can be used in a variety of applications since they can be incorporated with various petroleum-based polymers or biopolymers to create unique composite materials. In general, starch-based plastics are more cost competitive than alternative bio-plastics. They can accommodate a wide range of physical properties that alternative bio-plastics lack, such as tensile strength and heat tolerance. Starch composites can also incorporate recycled plastics. Starch can be used to reduce the carbon footprint of traditional resins because they can replace petroleum-based polymers with natural ones.


In a competitive marketplace, personalisation is the key to create an instant bond between the product and the consumer. This can be achieved in different ways at different stages of a product’s journey. One good example is eCommerce. It can also be achieved at the level of in-store label and branding.

For example, Mars chocolate bar offered personalisation in a golden card box which can be customised in one or two colours (with embossing options), containing a single Mars Bar in its original packaging.


In a crowded shop-front, often a simple design can help a product stand out. Embracing minimalistic design means conveying relevant information instantly and creating a package which is simple bold and clear.

Iyenger gives the example of the packaging design for Paper Boat chikkis designed by Elephant Design, as well as the iconic look of the Snickers bar, with just the name printed on one side of the bar.

Design functionality

This concerns the ease of product handling at customers’ end. This includes easy-to-open and re-sealable package which are easy to store and offers easy options for refrigeration and re-heating.

Iyenger gives the example of vada batter from Bengaluru-based ID Fresh Foods, which comes in an innovative squeeze-with-ease packaging.


Innovation with the vintage-look plays with the nostalgia quotient of consumers. However, besides bringing back memories for people, such packaging can also hint at a strong heritage thus instilling confidence in the consumer.

For example, all Paper Boat product designs, especially its famous mango juice boxes, designed by Pune-based Elephant plays with childhood memories. So much so that it has become the selling point of the product.

On establishing heritage, while designs of Pepsi cans keep changing, the company often reverts back to its original logo with a modern twist to garner attention.

To conclude, according to Iyenger, innovations in packaging design offers striking look and feel; functionality and value-addition; a great communication platform.