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3 steps to developing a successful packaging strategy3 steps to developing a successful packaging strategy

David Foster

December 7, 2017

7 Min Read
3 steps to developing a successful packaging strategy
David Foster, Director, Adept Packaging

Packaging functions within organizations are filled with highly capable people, and projects are often executed very effectively. Most packaging functions, therefore, operate well at a tactical level; day-to-day activities are addressed, and project goals are met. However, for long-term success, operating well at a tactical level is not enough. The leaders of packaging departments must start looking at how their function supports the goals of the larger organization.  A packaging strategy is an essential element to doing this. This article aims to discuss an effective approach to developing a packaging strategy.  

A department trying to support organizational goals without its own strategy will fail because of a lack of focus and misalignment of activities with objectives. It is essential that the goals and objectives are understood and flow down as principles and guidelines within the packaging group.  For example, a packaging department within an organization that has a strong sustainability objective will need to develop systems that ensure environmental impact is considered during packaging development.

Developing a packaging strategy can be a daunting task, especially when we consider that the strategy must encompass multiple areas.  A packaging strategy is not just about redesigning packaging for marketing purposes; it is about determining the resources and systems that are used to meet long-term objectives.  

As with any strategy development, there are basic steps that can be followed:

  • Discovery

  • Statement of goals

  • Determine objectives to achieve the goals

A packaging strategy is no different; however, we need to be mindful of the packaging function elements the company objectives will be based around. Let’s walk through these three steps so you can develop an effective strategy. 


During the Discovery step, we need to evaluate the current status at a given point in time. In terms of a packaging strategy, this generally means determining the goals of an organization. In most organizations, general goals and missions will be known. For example, a lot of companies will have very visible sustainability statements that they expect to be carried through by the entire company.

To develop a packaging strategy, a little more insight is also required. We need to understand the industry that we are operating in and the strength of forces within the industry. We also need to understand the goals of the stakeholders within the organization.

Industry Analysis

Analysis of the industry landscape is a common step with developing business strategies, and it is also useful for developing a packaging strategy. Porter’s 5 forces is a great model for industry analysis.

Stakeholder Goals

The second important element of the Discovery step is understanding the goals of stakeholders within an organization and the strengths of those goals. For example, an operations group may focus on efficiency as their main target, a marketing group may seek to have a brand recognized for its particular packaging color, and a purchasing group may strive to utilize multiple suppliers for each component type.

The industry factors, the organizational goals, and other motivations must be gathered and analyzed to determine the company’s overarching position. This process can be achieved by determining the goals’ impact on the functions that packaging must fulfill.  Those functions are listed in the below figure.


The strength of the impact of goals on each function will result in a matrix of corporate goals, department goals, and impact of goals of packaging functions.  

Using our example of sustainability, the Discovery phase may determine that both sustainability and the use of a standard color for brand recognition are very important to an organization. Therefore, in this case, a packaging strategy might include policies and guidelines to ensure a focus on maintaining an exact color when developing components using increased amounts of material from sustainable sources. 


Statement of goals.

Analysis during the Discovery step will reveal what is important to an organization; the goals of the packaging function can be formed around those needs. Goal statements can be developed at multiple levels. For example, the concept of vision and mission statements can be used. The vision statement is the big picture of what must be achieved, and the mission statement is a general statement of how the vision will be achieved. 

In addition, several mission statements can be developed to address different elements of a department. The elements of a packaging department are usually: 

  • Business processes: The systems used to manage the department.

  • Resources: The talent and equipment.

  • Engineering services: The focus of the department on determined programs, e.g., packaging development for omni-channel.

  • Technology: The level of need to incorporate new technology in packaging development.

Examples of vision and mission statements are as follows: 

  • Vision statement: The packaging function will support the company goal of being first to market with new technology that results in recognition of the company as the technological leader in the industry.

  • Business process mission statement: To be first to market, we recognize the need to have short timelines and therefore we will design a packaging development system that allows quick decisions and uses multiple iterations consecutively.

  • Resources mission statement: To be leaders in technology requires expertise and high levels of talent. We shall utilize primarily principal packaging engineers and invest in training.

  • Engineering services mission statement: To support a goal of being technology leaders, the packaging function will develop a roadmap to ensure new technology is constantly under review.

  • Technology mission statement: To support a goal of being technology leaders, the packaging function will build relationships with suppliers to ensure constant communication of innovation in packaging.

Determine objectives to meet goals.

Objectives are more detailed steps and activities to move toward goals. As the strategy flows down through the organization, the activities become more defined and precise. There is often an additional level of tactics below objectives that define the day-to-day activities to reach goals. 

Every organization will have different goals and different forces, so there is no standard formula for objectives. Previous experience from multiple organization types can be highly beneficial when developing objectives. Below are some suggestions of objectives to meet the examples in the Statement of Goals step:

  • Business processes such as specification systems and line-trial protocols are designed implemented or optimized to support mission statements. Policies and guidelines used in packaging development will also be established under business processes. The policies can be used to ensure color matches are used to ensure no deviation of color or to ensure suppliers with local supply are selected. 

  • In terms of resources, talent is a critical factor within an organization. The mix of experience and skills that best support goals must be determined. For example, for companies in highly regulated industries, it may be necessary to create a pipeline of people experienced in documentation. In other industries, talent may be difficult to attract, so policies to develop talent using career ladders and training modules could be an objective. Consideration for how much support is provided by third parties is also a consideration in resources.  For example, it may be decided that third-party services are used for all testing and documentation to allow focus on development of principal engineers.

  • In terms of engineering services, a packaging function will have a portfolio of project types. The objectives in engineering services will determine the mix of project types that best support the organization. The project mix consists of cost saving, brand maintenance, innovation and new technology, and quality improvement. When the project mix is determined, the structure or the department in terms of resources, supply base, and test facilities can be determined.

  • In terms of technology, objectives related to technology will support the reliance level of an organization on new technology. The reliance level will dictate the need for computer-aided simulation or investments in research and development.

Once the objectives are set, the responsibilities, roles, and tactics can be assigned to meet the objectives. For many it may be the start of a long road, but the packaging strategy is an essential component to enable a focus on meeting long-term objectives and ensuring ongoing success and competitiveness of an organization.

David Foster serves as director of Adept Packaging. Adept Packaging offers expertise in packaging engineering and serialization, providing teams with focused capability through staffing, engineering services, business processes and technology. With wholly owned operations in the United States and Europe, the company serves clients in industries including food, beverage, CPG, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices. For details, visit www.adeptpkg.com.

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