Collaboration spurs packaging innovation
Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor -- Packaging Digest, 9/2/2013 6:15:00 PM
Packaging innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum. Collaboration—internal and external—is critical to ensure success. Done right, partnerships can deliver substantial benefits, including lower development costs, faster time to market, and high employee engagement and retention. Done wrong...well, typically no one wins.
Jane Chase, senior director, packaging innovation and R&D, The Schwan Food Co., explains how to drive innovation through collaborative packaging—and what to watch out for.
Q: How does collaboration with internal departments and external partners improve the packaging innovation process?
Chase: One of the keys to innovation is collaboration. Without gaining alignment with the other functional areas that are impacted by the change in the company early and often, package innovation will not happen. By insuring that your key partners-Marketing, Product Development, Process Engineering, Operations and Legal-are engaged in the development process, you allow them to become invested in the success of the project. Their input at key points in the development of the package innovation strengthens the design and produces a more robust commercializable package.
Q: What are some of the red flags that you're collaborating with the wrong partners?
Chase: The brightest red flag that you're working with the wrong partner on a package innovation is missed deliverables early on in the process. That being said, I believe there are times when we as end users push our partners to commit to timing that they know is unattainable. A true partner is strong enough to call for reasonable time for development.
A lot of companies come to an end user with a new innovative technology that they would like to get commercialized. A red flag goes up when that partner is unwilling to make changes because "the development is done and we're just looking to sell the technology." It's really important that the partner be willing and able to make the technology work for your application.
Q: You advocate that, as part of the innovation process today, brands should design packaging to optimize shelf space? Why should they do that?
Chase: Brands need to design their packaging to optimize shelf space because, to a retailer, the bottom line is that shelf space equals money. The more productive a particular amount of shelf space is in turning product and generating revenue, the more profitable the space is for the retailer and, as a result, for the producer. While the key driver is clearly financial, there are also sustainability benefits linked to an optimized shelf space that adds to the financial attractiveness to the producer. Not only in the potential for reduced packaging costs, but through consumer perception of the producer as an advocate for environmental stewardship.