All packaging should be recyclable, full stop

During the recent PPMA Show, held at the NEC in Birmingham, UK on 30 September-2 October, I chaired a lecture in the seminar programme entitled Adapt or Die: the evolution of consumer packaging. Presented by Kevin Vyse, packaging technologist at Marks & Spencer, the audience heard how, much like man has evolved over the years, so too has packaging.

Vyse says, “We are in a world that is dominated by packaging, certainly the Western world. We rely on packaging much more than we think; just think about your day to day life and you will see just how packaging has evolved to create the lifestyle we live.”

To illustrate brands evolving over time, Vyse offered both Coke and Heinz as examples. “Coke has gone from a bottle which had no form, to finding a bottle shape which dictated their brand, and then sticking with that visual for the consumer, right the way up to the current bottle – the ‘friends’ bottle where they’re printing digitally people’s names, making it a bespoke offer,” he says. The packaging has taken the brand into the consumer’s hand, Vyse explains, it is a very intimate moment for every one of us at a brand level.

As for Heinz, the packaging has always been a can, but the brand has evolved over the years with changing labels. However, changes have continued to represent the well-known Heinz asset to the extent that if someone came back from 70 or so years ago, they would understand exactly what was in that tin and what it was there for.

On the flip side, Vyse reminded us of some brands which have faded away, and explained that you can identify the reasons behind their demise; namely because somebody meddled so much with the asset and the visual of the product that they actually lost the consumer.

Vyse’s point to remember is that the consumer must come with you on a brand journey. “In all of the packaging work we do, it has a consumer at the end of it and the packaging will tell the consumer about the brand and about the product inside the pack,” he says.

Highlighting the change in shopping over the last 40 years – from shopkeepers to the birth of supermarkets in the 1950s, which put the emphasis on the consumer to make the choice, Vyse explained how, suddenly, packaging became incredibly important. The relationship became directly between the brand and the consumer.

So what does the future hold for retail and the resultant packaging? Vyse believes the experience in store is going to play more and more of a significant role. “People are wanting more from the actual going to a store experience – they don’t just want to thrash around any more, they know what they’re going to get. The big aisle shop is no longer a pleasant experience. So what we’re looking at is stores bringing experience into this space – coffee shops, deli counters, places where you can stop,” he comments. At the same time, the world wide web and internet shopping will play an ever important role too.

He also commented on the highly publicised issue of food waste. Much like the posters of the Second World War, which demanded, “don’t waste it, buy wisely, cook carefully, eat it all”, we are hearing echoes of this in food waste. Vyse says, “24 per cent of landfill is food waste not packaging – only three per cent of landfill is packaging. The demon is not the packaging; it is the fact that we aren’t eating all of the food that we buy. Packaging is actually a great help in trying to keep things fresher for longer and making sure we do consume all the food we have in our fridge and cupboards.”

In conclusion, Vyse believes that to adapt to the 2000s, we must look at three things:

  1. We must www.-proof everything. “We’ve got to assume that the generation born in the 80s will be so used to smartphones as they’ve grown up with them that everything will be driven from a smartphone or similar device,” says Vyse.
  2. We will begin to see a lot more of the super enhanced experience. “In store or online – wherever a brand is represented, it will be expected to provide a real connection, a real experience,” he continues.
  3. The final part of this is improving materials and resources, as Vyse explains, “Do we really have to use this much packaging? And if we do, what is it going to do for the shelf life? Is the food going to remain fresher for longer? If it is, then it is permissible. If it doesn’t do anything to the length of life of the food, we must reduce the pack.”

Vyse’s final remark was, “All packaging should be recyclable, full stop.”

Related content

Leave a reply

Food and Drink Technology