4 Ways Packaging Can Help During the Coronavirus Crisis

By Lisa McTigue Pierce in Optimization on March 16, 2020

One of the reasons I’m proud to cover the packaging industry as a journalist is because of all the good you do that I get to write about. Right now, a lot of people are fighting this temporary coronavirus crisis on many levels. Here is my opinion on some things the packaging industry has recommended, suggested, or already done to help.

 

1. Postpone large congregations, yes, but keep talking about the packaging issues.

For safety, as well as because of restrictions on international travel and large gatherings, the world’s largest packaging show, interpack — which was to take place this May — has been rescheduled for 2021. New dates are February 25 to March 3, and I hope to see you there.

Many other packaging-related events this spring have been postponed or cancelled. Rightly so. But let’s continue to talk about packaging issues to keep advancing needed solutions. We’ll probably see an uptick in virtual meetings and events. I encourage you to still PARTICIPATE when you can.

 

2. Reinstate domestic pharmaceutical production.

The current COVID-19 situation has revealed a disturbing reliance on China for the manufacture of critical medicines and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), something the producers of CPhI Worldwide have highlighted over the years [Editor’s disclaimer: CPhI, the world’s leading platform for pharmaceutical ingredients solutions, is produced by Packaging Digest’s parent company]. According to FiercePharma, the US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t even know the extent of our dependence.

But John R. Henry, packaging machinery wizard at Changeover.com and Puerto Rican resident, reminds us that the island still has the infrastructure and talent to again be the pharmaceutical manufacturing hub it was from the 1970s through the early 2000s when pharmaceutical companies took advantage of the US federal tax incentive known as Section 936.

 

3. Keep/reward ethics in business.

Price gouging happens during a crisis. It shouldn’t; but it does. Form-fill-seal machinery manufacturer QuickPouch announced last week that it would work harder to support customers involved with projects to contain/fight COVID-19 and would waive any expedited/rush fees. Here's my tweet:

 

 

What other companies should be commended for their ethical efforts during this pandemic? Please tell us in the comments below.

 

4. Use/promote hygienic packaging.

I don’t often editorialize, but I will admit that I see huge value in reusable packaging in today’s “sustainability” climate, like that developed for the Loop circular shopping platform. And in “Pandemic Prompts Fears over Transition to Reusable Products” from Environmental Leader, Loop CEO Tom Szaky reassures us that packages in the Loop program are aggressively cleaned to ensure safety.

But I also think single-use packaging, which has suffered from huge criticism in recent years because of its supposed wastefulness, might have an edge right now from a “sanitary” point of view because of limited handling/access of the inner products.

Starbucks and other foodservice establishments seem to agree, as they temporarily stop refilling their customers’ reusable cups because of the pandemic.

I expect interest in packaging and cleanliness to climb — because it already has. Our July 2018 article “Top 5 trends shaping the antimicrobial packaging market” is seeing a spike in page views and is already one of the top stories of March 2020.

 

Regardless of what packaging task you perform — whether packaging design, production, or logistics — thanks for helping to deliver safe and secure products and supplies across the nation during this trying time. Take special care, please.

 

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I just saw this from consumer insights firm Mintel: "This opens the door to a major paradigm shift: Instead of seeking out fresh, unprocessed products, consumers are reaching for items with a long shelf life." Makes sense! https://www.mintel.com/blog/consumer-market-news/covid-19-pandemic-here-and-now-how-consumers-and-industries-are-reacting-in-the-us