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Ideas to make more of an impact in sustainable packaging

Ideas to make more of an impact in sustainable packaging
Tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience of leaders in sustainable packaging.

If two heads are better than one, imagine the power of several hundred packaging and sustainability professionals musing on today’s challenges and opportunities. That’s what will happen at SPC Impact 2018 (Apr. 24-26; San Francisco, CA), a new event from the leaders at the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.

Barbara Fowler, senior manager for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, has prepared a spectacular three-day event with thought-provoking presentations, interactive sessions, engaging panels, interesting tours and fun business networking functions. Packaging Digest is proud to be a media partner for this landmark event.

Among the major brand owners scheduled to speak about their sustainability efforts are:

Procter & Gamble—Brent Heist, who leads the global packaging sustainability team, will introduce us to PureCycle, a new purification technology developed by P&G to encourage use of post-consumer recycled polypropylene, in his presentation “Virgin-like PP via PureCycle Purification.”

Intel—Carter Anderson, senior packaging engineer, is a panelist on the “Understanding the Complexity in Electronics Packaging” session.

Amazon—Brent Nelson, who leads development of sustainable packaging solutions for Amazon worldwide, will also participate in the panel “Understanding the Complexity in Electronics Packaging.”

Seventh Generation—Director of packaging development Derrick Lawrence will moderate several sessions focused on “Ecommerce and the Changing Retail Environment Landscape.”

Nike—Elizabeth Blackwell, packaging sustainability manager, tackles a critical component of ecommerce packaging—returns—in “Moving Towards Cooperative Reverse Supply Chains in Fashion, Apparel and Retail.”

Method—Kaj Johnson, green chef, will join a panel discussion on “Leveraging Bioplastics’ Advantages on Performance, Technical Benefits and Functionality.”

Clorox—Alexis Limberakis, senior director of environmental sustainability, joins a panel of plastic packaging stakeholders to discuss the use of recycled content in “False Assumptions that Get in the Way of Creating Circularity in Plastics.”

 Mars—Rachel Goldstein, global sustainability director, scientific and regulatory affairs, will participate in a workshop on “Sustainable Forest Products Sourcing.”

This is just a taste of the hot topics, keen insights and powerful networking you will enjoy at SPC Impact 2018.

Fowler touches on some of the many benefits for attendees:

How will the program this year help packaging professionals align their actions with the bigger picture of sustainability and keep the momentum for their projects/strategies?

Fowler: SPC Impact has been designed to provide high-level perspectives on the current issues, opportunities and challenges on packaging sustainability: from learnings from other industries and examples on creative problem solving to providing a variety of sessions that address specific types of packaging, or zeroing in on different parts of the supply chain.

Our end goal is that our attendees will be inspired; will learn new concepts; will make new connections and forge new partnerships coming out from the event.

One of the new features at SPC Impact this year is the Ideas Lab. What is that all about? How is the Ideas Lab different from, say, a workshop?

Fowler: The Ideas Lab will be an ideation exercise in a small group setting to address a specific challenge. The session will be centered around the “Unboxing Experience in E-Commerce” and participants with prior experience in the topic will try to improve the customer experience together, zeroing in on four areas.

Also new this year are masterclasses on design thinking, neuroscience, consumer perspectives and the aesthetics of sustainable packaging. Why those topics and how will they be presented in a masterclass?

Fowler: A big component of SPC events are the unique opportunities we give attendees to learn about a variety of topics. In these new masterclasses, we will take a deeper dive on topics that are closely related to sustainability and packaging, but that will provide new information, new concepts and new ways of thinking about how to solve current challenges in the industry.

The common thread on some of these masterclasses is that they are intimately related to consumer experience and expectations of how sustainable packaging should look and feel.

What’s new or unusual about the tours this year?

Fowler: As we do when we go to different cities, we try to showcase the best in sustainability the city has to offer. The Bay Area is so rich in examples both in sustainability and technology that we wanted to show a bit of both. Recycle Central is the best-in-class MRF [materials recovery facility] in the country. The Target Open House and the Autodesk Gallery are prime examples of inspiration via technology. The California Academy of Sciences has science and environmental initiatives that go well beyond what would be expected from a museum. The USDA Research Center is host to a number of startups developing the next set of technologies that brands and manufacturers will want to know about.

Tours showcase local sustainability efforts.

Why is this such a good event for networking?

Fowler: Throughout the event there will be several opportunities to connect with other attendees: from attending a tour; to joining in smaller setting sessions like workshops, working groups and masterclasses; to functions like breaks, receptions and organized business social networking like Dinner and Dialogues and the Pub Crawl.

We make sure attendees leave with valuable connections that can help them advance sustainability in their organizations.

Dinner & Dialogue is a favorite for casual and comfortable conversations and networking.

SPC will recognize the winners of the 2018 SPC Innovator Awards on Wed., Apr. 25 at 5:00 p.m. What was most surprising about the entries this year?

Fowler: The collection of entries we received truly embody the march of progress in packaging technologies that advance sustainability. We’re seeing ideas that would have recently been characterized as wistful, idealistic thinking now made real in packaging innovations that are ready-for-market or on the market.

Exciting things are happening in responsible sourcing, material recovery and smart design. We’re looking forward to announcing the winners!

SPC Innovator Awards recognizes significant achievements.

Is there anything else about the event you’d like to point out?

Fowler: There are some new sessions included in this year’s program that we have not touched upon in previous years, such as electronics packaging; cold chain packaging; reverse supply chains in apparel and retail; and the issues around creating true circularity in plastics. We will have two exhibit halls with plenty of options for attendees to learn about new products and technologies.

We are expanding the content on ecommerce to match the massive growth in this sector and the opportunities this represents for packaging. New this year is a masterclass from on the challenges associated with packaging and shipping large items that are highly fragile or bulky and the sustainability implications this has.


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Meaty new packaging puts Man Cave products front and center

Meaty new packaging puts Man Cave products front and center
Upscale cartons showcase Man Cave's premium meats with appetizing product photos.

Man Cave Craft Eats, a Minneapolis-based artisanal meat purveyor, is letting shoppers know exactly what they’re buying, with a new packaging design that features luscious product photos and die-cut windows to display the products.

The first products in the new packaging launched in February 2018; the remainder will roll out in the spring, in anticipation of grilling season. All of Man Cave’s 20-plus beef, pork and poultry products will eventually be in the redesigned packaging, which will be used for both frozen and refrigerated merchandising.

The secondary package structures are cartons, in two configurations. A window in each carton displays product sealed in a Cryovac pouch with a branded sticker. Upscale touches on the cartons, including soft-touch paperboard and silver-foil logo and embellishments, communicate the brand’s premium quality.

A front flap on cartons used for products like bratwurst and Italian sausage opens to reveal the product, through a round, die-cut window, in a transparent pouch. The cubic ground-meat carton has no flap over the die-cut, so to protect against light, the ground-meat pouches are made from opaque film.

Package graphics feature photos of the prepared meats, and the cartons also provide information about Man Cave’s charitable Bite Back program. Outlook Group Packaging & Printing Solutions supplies the packaging.

The redesign, like all the company’s design work, was performed in-house. Gabriel Welker, Man Cave’s creative director, provides insight into the new packaging.

What was the impetus for Man Cave’s package redesign?

Welker: Consumers told us they loved our previous packaging, which featured bright colors and soft-touch paperboard and communicated the brand’s start-up roots. However, we heard from consumers that they wanted to more clearly know what was inside the package.

With the new design, consumers can easily tell what’s inside the box, with the photography of the finished product and the bold typography of the product names. The new packaging features eye-catching colors to stop consumers in the aisle, disrupting the sea of sameness of meat in foam trays and plastic wrap. Not only is our box packaging visually disrupting on the shelf, it also helps with the shelf life of product, because there isn’t exposure to light.

How does the new packaging design communicate Man Cave’s craft message?

Welker: The front of the packaging clearly calls out: “Simple Honest Ingredients,” “Hand Crafted, Hand Selected & Ground” and “100% Independently Owned & Operated.”

Within the inside flap of the packaging, we message that, for every pack of product we sell, we donate a meal to a hungry child [through Bite Back]. Specifically, we message: “Our passion is crafting exceptional products. Our purpose is to provide for those in need. Together, we’ve provided more than 1 million meals!”

The back of the packaging messages the company’s small, independent roots, as well as our purpose of delivering a cleaner, better tasting product that helps feed others with the donation of each pack sold.

Why use the soft-touch finish and silver-foil touches?

Welker: At Man Cave Craft Eats, we never skimp or cut corners to offer the best products with premium ingredients. We want our packaging to be the same: high-quality and telling the story of why our product and brand separate us from the pack. Silver foil was used to bring elements of a high-end, commercial-style kitchen to the design.

How is the Bite Back campaign more prominent on the redesigned package?

Welker: In our previous package design, our Bite Back initiative was messaged on the back of the packaging. With the redesign, we’ve made it more prominent, featuring it on the inside flap. And we’re also letting consumers know how many meals we’ve donated since the program began in 2017.

Man Cave’s “Renegade Chef” previously appeared on the front of your packaging. Where did he go?

Welker: Our Renegade Chef no longer appears on the front of the packaging, as we’re aiming to focus on what’s in the box, inspiring consumers with the finished recipe photo, as well as dedicating more packaging space to communicate our Bite Back program. On the new design, an image of the Renegade Chef oversees the cooking instructions on the side of the carton.


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Knowing ecommerce packaging costs can free design creativity

Knowing ecommerce packaging costs can free design creativity
Should you design an omni-channel package or not?

As a packaging developer or designer, you’re probably already familiar with the cycle of new package introductions and the inevitable optimization process, where you have to reduce the number of stock-keeping units (SKUs). The growth of ecommerce sales adds another channel, with unique packaging demands. Should you create a separate package or rework one you already have?

Michael Gorges, managing director for North America and Asia at More from Less, will present “When is it Time to Make the Move to an Omni-Channel Pack?” at the 2018 TransPack Forum (Mar. 20-23, San Diego, CA), organized by the Intl. Safe Transit Assn. (ISTA). Ecommerce packaging is a particular area of expertise for the company. Last year, More from Less presented in a successful webinar for Packaging Digest on “Ecommerce Packaging: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right from the Start”, which you can view on-demand.

Here is a taste of what attendees will hear from Gorges at the upcoming TransPack Forum:

How easy or hard is it to calculate the total cost of an omni-channel package and why?

Gorges: The difficulty or challenge to establish the total cost of omni-channel packaging is not calculating the direct costs—such as packaging, freight/logistics and warehouse handling—but with the indirect or “unseen” costs. The real challenge is determining these costs, as they are often poorly tracked.

Most often these costs are things like damages and returns. Most organizations do not have the granularity necessary to understand where and how damage occurs, never mind to what degree a well-designed omni-channel package reduce these costs.

Equally important, if not more so, how will a well-designed omni-channel package improve the customer experience and extend the brand promise? In many cases, the only way to get at this information is with a combination of a thorough supply chain touchpoint audit, methodical testing and a rigorous pilot program.

Why should brands take the time and effort to analyze the total cost of an omni-channel package?

Gorges: Most importantly, research and analysis shows, customers are demanding more and more ecommerce access to your products. Online shopping is a fast moving and growing marketplace. You may not understand options available and costs associated with omni-channel packaging, but rest assured your competitors are already on with the journey, or at a minimum, have started working on it.

There is no silver bullet out there, though. This is a complex challenge, with numerous unknowns and conflicting data.

However, don’t let this paralyze you or your organization into doing nothing. You need to research and develop a plan, at the center of which should be a well thought out data collection process. You may not have all the answers today, they may not be easy to find. But as it relates to better packaging solutions, put yourself in a position so that six months from now you will be in a better position to answer questions with greater certainty.

What are the benefits of an omni-channel package?

Gorges: The ultimate goal of packaging does not change regardless of where or how it is being used. Omni-channel package or not, delivering the brand promise at the lowest supply chain cost is the fundamental ambition.

In its simplest form, companies have three basic packaging options when managing their omni-channels:

1. A single-channel SKU that is re-packed for each channel—that is, a brick-and-mortar (B&M) SKU that is over-boxed for ecomm.

2. Multiple SKUs—that is, one SKU for your B&M channel and a second SKU for your ecomm channel.

3. An omni-channel packaged SKU.

Depending on the product, the channel mix and speed-to-market requirements, you will need to select one of the above. In doing so, it’s highly likely you will need to make a cost or branding compromise. Theoretical at least, a well-designed omni-channel package will not require you to make any compromises.

What are the challenges of an omni-channel package design?

Gorges: There are two main challenges when designing an omni-channel package.

Firstly, to ensure a consistent brand and customer experience. A statement of the obvious maybe, however, it’s worth emphasizing that the B&M buying process is dramatically different to the ecommerce buying process. Developing a package that will effectively communicate your brand promise and provide a consistent customer experience across multi-channels is an extremely high bar.

Secondly, the requirements of a traditional B&M package are well established and understood, due to the better part of 100 years’ experience understanding and perfecting the B&M solution. Ecommerce and its associated supply chain processes are still in their infancy for more companies than you might imagine. Many organizations are still working to define their “base case” ecommerce supply chain.

Some organizations may understand where they are today, in relation to their ecommerce supply chain. However, it is extremely likely that this will change (in some cases dramatically) over the next 12 to 18 months creating further complications. Therefore, it is important to remember that this is a journey and not a destination. Commit yourself to innovating, trailing, learning and iterating. You will gain more knowledge and understanding with each step, while refining and improving your solution.

Are most brand owners moving toward separate packaging for products sold via ecommerce or are they trying to simplify or prevent SKU proliferation as the number of outlets keeps rising?

Gorges: It’s too early for such a vast market to indicate any clear or obvious trends. At this stage, most organizations are still on a path of discovery and learning. We have observed brand owners experimenting in creative and innovative ways, to improve their understanding of what is and isn’t working.


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2016 parade of new packages showcases great design

Photos supplied by brand owners New packages introduced in 2016

As the New Year dawns, take a virtual tour of all the new packages we published in 2016. Designers, developers, engineers, executives and other packaging professionals looking for ideas will find inspiration and, perhaps, a challenge to do better than what has already been done.

This searchable database compiles photos, captions, summaries and more for 85 new packages published on during 2016. You can scan for 13 different markets, from foods and beverages to personal care products and the emerging cannabis business.

Or scroll to see a chronological parade of packages throughout the year.

Download the document below.


We’d appreciate it if you’d let us know in the comments below how useful this document has been for you. Thanks.


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