Packaging: New horizons

From consumer convenience to logistics efficiency and from product safety to sustainability, packaging innovations are opening up a whole new world of opportunities.

01 Apr 2014 | By Chakravarthi AVPS

Packaging is ‘an art of presentation and the science of protection of the product’. In other words, it can also be defined as the one which ensures safe delivery of goods from manufacturing to the end-customer in sound condition.
Packaging plays a major role across thegamut of supply chain through various features like protection, safety and compatibility; these are basic benefits. The value added features are of greater utility in rapidly changing retail environment. These include providing tamper evidence, anti-counterfeiting, track and trace etc. There are other features like user convenience, unit dispensing, adhering to regulations and so on, which are prone to end-user needs.
Packaging has a significant impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of retail supply chains, where improvements can be achieved through the adaptation and development of the concept of packaging logistics. Packaging always reflects a brand’s identity. From healthcare and cosmetics to bulk chemicals / paint containers when a product is the leader in its segment, unique packaging helps the product to sustain its position. Packaging with a distinctive design supports the brand strategy. High quality printing with vibrant graphics using unique materials will not only help engage consumers but also offer a better brand identity in today’s crowded markets.
Packaging also helps build a relation between a brand and the end user. Some kinds of packaging have also an impact on the users with regards to how they perceive the brand, every time the product is used. Of course, a positive experience for the user always helps in building brand loyalty.
Attributes of sustainable packaging
  • Reducing packaging and maximising the use of
  • renewable or reusable materials.
  • Using lighter weight material.
  • Reducing CO2 emissions through reduced shipping loads.
  • Demonstrating compliance with regulations regarding hazardous chemicals and packaging and waste legislation.
  • Optimising material usage.
  • Using materials which are from certified, responsible sources.
  • Reducing the flow of solid waste to landfill.
Packaging innovations have hugely helped in the logistics sphere. Although the flexible intermediate bulk containers have been in use for few decades, they are still considered to be one of the best options when compared to rigid containers. In fact, these solutions have evolved with times. With technology advancing, they are now available in different proportions like U-Panel construction, circular / tubular construction, Baffle construction, four side panel construction and round construction.
A European bottle manufacturer has recently come out with an innovative design which enables the neck of one bottle to tuck into the bottom of another bottle. This design has helped a great extent of space saving while packing them on a pallet and has also eliminated usage of secondary shippers as well. While ideas are unlimited, the designs needed to be operation friendly as well. Fortunately, we are witnessing great innovative designs which are mostly driven by market demands.
Because of the fact that disposal by consumers has become one of the largest waste streams in the supply chain, great opportunities for supply chain optimisation are achieved by using less packaging of directto-consumer shipments.
A typical example: Dell wanted to go for a greener and a cost efficient way to package its computers by eliminating foams, corrugated and moulded paper pulp. The solution was sustainably sourced bamboo packaging and the company’s efforts have resulted in eliminating over 8.7 million pounds of packaging.
Logistics performance can also be increased by adopting lighter packaging. For example, the bending stiffness of paperboard affects consumer experience and the rigidity of packages. Some lightweight paperboards produced by leading paper board makers provide the requisite thickness and stiffness at lower basis weights thereby enabling significant savings through a yield advantage. The same phenomenon applies to rigid plastic containers as well. Thus, sustainable packaging will always be a win-win situation for manufacturers and users in the long run.
In case of pharmaceutical products, drugs need gentle handling during packaging. And it is important that packs should be hermetically sealed for higher product safety. A solution to achieve hermetically sealed packs for blister, blow-fill-seal pouches, vials and other products is to overwrap them into a horizontal flow wrap. These flow wraps consist of a foil laminate that is able to increase the shelf life of the product as well as to ensure 100 percent MVTR and OTR properties.
Growth of Indian packaging industry
The large growing middle class, liberalisation and organised retail sector are helping growth in packaging industry. Thanks to the ever-growing FMCG and retail sector, the packaging industry across India is experiencing an exponential growth. The sales turnover of Indian packaging industry is likely to touch US$ 43.7 billion by 2016 The total turnover of the packaging industry in India at present is US$ 27.6 billion and expected to grow to around US$ 43.7 billion by 2016, whereas the global turnover is about US$ 550 billion. The Indian packaging industry has been growing at 12 percent per annum against the global growth rate of five per cent. India’s per capita consumption of packaging is only 4.3 kg per person per annum, as against Germany’s 42 kg and China’s 20 kg, which is very low compared to global standards. Initiatives are needed to convert the large unpacked commodities into processed, packed and well-presented commodities. There is a scope for innovation, entrepreneurship as well as logistical advancements; there are about 22,000 packaging companies in the country, comprising of raw material manufacturers to machinery suppliers to ancillary material out of which about 85 percent of them are MSMEs.
The author is CEO  and managing director, Ecobliss India; and chairman, Indian institute of Packaging, Hyderabad.
The article was first published in February-March 2014 issue of The Economic Times POLYMERS