Does your brand speak to your consumer?

The packaging industry, which stood at $32 billion in 2015, had grown at a CAGR of 15% in the last 5 years and is expected to continue growing at a CAGR of 13-15% in coming years

e4m by Anam Khan
Updated: Jun 4, 2019 8:56 AM
Packaging Main

Packaging has a profound impact on how we relate to particular products. Effective product packaging can shout from the shelves. The colours, textures, fonts, and compositions on the products we buy can really change how we feel, taste, and experience a brand.

A pleasure to the eyes!

Have you ever stopped to pick up a product and noticed that it did not really convey its message well? This is not a common sight these days. From packaged juices to sanitary napkins, brands are progressing towards building a first impression of their product for customers. Even in the age of social media, product packing and “shelf-presence” is still important for brands to get (and remain) in the consumer consciousness. From glittery boxes to eco-friendly packaging, brands have taken a leap in terms of design.

The first impression isn't the last anymore

Gone are the days when people use to believe in the concept of ‘First Impression is the last impression’. Brands these days continuously revamp their product’s look. Frooti is an example of such a change from the early 90’s to now. Remember the green coloured square shaped pack which used to be a 'thing' in the 90s? It has grown up with a new look. Since its launch in 1985, Frooti has been steeped in cues that have been instant hits with kids, forming both its legacy and its challenge. When launched, kids found its square pouch, manufactured by the company, Tetra Pak, a breeze to use compared to the glass bottles or plastic pouches available then. The soft drinks market became young adults-led from the 2000s onwards. The brand then revamped and formulated a new look right from rewriting the brand name to designing a new look. Somehow packaging has played an integral part in making the brand a massive hit among the masses.

People remember great designs and great stories

It’s not enough today for packaging to merely contain the product inside. Consumers are asking that packaging do so much more: It must excite, inform, create an experience and even save the planet. The packaging segment that has long been considered mundane or at the very least, the last priority for most businesses. With a slew of start-up and exciting verticals opening up, marketers and owners alike are warming up to ‘innovation in packaging’.

Speaking on how closely packaging agencies work with their clients Ashwini Deshpande, Co-founder and Director, Elephant Design, spoke about how brand teams and design teams integrate their work together in bringing out a ‘Wowsome’ effect.

“We believe brand teams and design teams have to work like blind people in the story of the elephant, where each one has to discover and bring an extremely valuable part of the larger picture that gets completed only when you put all the pieces together“, added Deshpande.

Comparing how MNCs or established companies with large portfolios of brands are quite aware of the design process rather than small startups, Deshpande said, “There are milestones and nuances in a packaging design journey. Companies with large portfolios of brands are well aware of the functionality of designing and packaging. Their project planning is far better, but their appetite for innovation is limited. Start-ups with minor exposure to various parts of brand building have a distance to cover when it comes to the technical and functional aspects of packaging, but they are genuinely keen to experiment and disrupt the categories they want to play in.”

Adding more to the client and agency relationship, Amitava Ray, Executive Director, Uflex Ltd. said, “We have to work very closely and virtually daily with our client. Increasing competition has made having two-way communication with our client an essential part of our business, both for existing and new prospects. It is very important to guide our clients by telling them about what we plan to do for their products’ packaging and attending to their needs, likes, and dislikes. We have to continuously work on new innovation and new features to keep us ahead in market share and in value addition.”

From the beginning of an era to an evolution

The history of packaging begins in ancient times when goods were sold in nameless glass jugs, wood crates, steel cans, and cloth bags. That’s all different now, of course. The modern packaging industry, rightly, is under huge pressure to constantly evolve, to meet new environmental standards and to create a product according to a customer’s need.

Talking about how the packaging industry has evolved over decades, Deshpande added, “It will be an understatement to say that packaging has evolved over the past decade. There was no question of noticing, reading, interacting with packaging when the purchase happened from a corner kirana shop. However, modern retail made it possible for consumers to interact with packaging. This change created an impact on the packaging design industry in a big way.”

“Substrates and shapes became important as they became the medium for communicating brand values. As packaging is the first moment of truth, it has a job to be done other than securing the contents inside it. In more recent times, online retail changed the concept of “brand facings” or “brand walls” on shelves. The iconic bottle shape and vibrancy of Coca Cola packaging is neither a fluke nor recent news. Progressive brands have always been aware of the power of good packaging design,” added Deshpande.

Speaking about how newer brands have become more aware of the importance of packaging, Saswata Das, Founder-Director, Almond Branding added a few points on how India has the scope to overcome the international parameters of the packaging industry. “People have now graduated to the feeling of the importance of packaging and the fact that it has become mandatory for brands. If the packaging is not done right, then definitely a brand is missing out on major traction in the market. For example, many brands acquire international customs and launch it in India but the question arises whether the same propositions are working in India.”

The packaging industry and the Indian market

The packaging industry in India is very dynamic and influences all other industries directly or indirectly. The packaging industry, which stood at $32 billion in 2015, had grown at a compound annualized growth rate (CAGR) of 15 percent for the last five years and is expected to continue growing at a CAGR of 13 to 15 percent in the coming years. According to the Packaging Industry Association of India, the Indian packaging industry was the fifth-largest in the world in 2016.

Flexible packaging is the fastest growing subsector of India’s packaging industry. Plastics dominate the Indian flexible packaging industry, as plastic is aesthetically attractive, cost-effective and sturdy. Furthermore, plastics improve the hygiene quotient and shelf life of products, especially foods and beverages. The flexible packaging segment is estimated to be growing at a rate of over 35 percent annually. The food processing sector is one of the biggest users of flexible packaging, accounting for more than 50 percent of total demand.

The challenges the industry is facing today include a lack of clarity in food packaging regulations, consumers’ opinions on sustainable packaging, and stress on eco-friendly packaging materials.

There are between 600 and 700 packaging machinery manufacturers in India, of which 85 to 90 percent are from small and midsize companies. Due to a growing demand for packaging, the industry is gearing itself to adopt scientific and functional packaging.

Discussing the current scenario of the packaging industry in India and the comparison between global and Indian packaging initiatives, Deshpande explained, “In my long career of 30 years of working with Indian as well as global brands, I have seen extremely conservative MNCs and remarkably progressive Indian brands. We really need to stop these discussions around Indian and global. All the design done in the developed world is not necessarily good. All the design done by Indian brands is not necessarily playing catch-up, nor is it an inferior or regressive.”

“We don’t have to emulate global brands to create something disruptive and desirable. Similarly, we have to keep the ability to appreciate global brands that align with every culture in the world. The world is flat and it resides on a screen in your palm, which is no different for a designer or consumer in Pune, London, New York or Hanoi”, added Deshpande.

When Team Elephant Design and Paper Boat met

Team Elephant is the brain behind the effective packaging of juice brand Paper Boat. In 2012, Paper Boat was placed silently across retail outlets in major metros, with no advertising or promotions. The packs disappeared so quickly, the client had to revise their capacity plans! The standee pouches with a look and feel like paper gave the feeling of squeezing a fruit straight into the mouth. The caps of the pouches were boat inspired, unique in their appearance. Explaining about how Paperboat builds its identity through packaging, Parvesh Debuka, Head of Marketing at Paper Boat (Hector Beverages) emphasized the importance of creativity and innovation in packaging.

“Packaging is the most crucial factor of Paper Boat’s identity. When we started out, we immediately drew attention by breaking clutter on the shelf and creating a desire in the consumers to pick us up. I would go on to say that packaging is still one of the most crucial factors of Paper Boat and it continues to drive love for the brand and trials in an ever new market we enter, added Debuka.”

He further added, “Elephant Design is our best friend and our partners in the true sense. They are the first people we think of when stuck with any problem and the discourse is always fascinating and inspiring. Let’s just say, there would never be a week that goes when we are not interacting with Elephant.”

Is India yet to see a disruption in the packaging industry?

FMCG brands like Mondelez, Amul and Nestle who have taken packaging to a different level make sure that they have different packaging concepts dedicated to different occasions. Cadbury never fails to surprise its consumers when it comes to attractive packaging. Whether it is a heart print ‘romantic’ design packaging for Valentine’s day or a festive one for Diwali, Cadbury provides a huge variety of different designs and concepts.

But the most important factor that strikes the mind is what could be the next big thing in this specific industry?

“There are two-way concept theories in the packaging industry. The first one is the safer side with minimal risks, the second one involves risk whether certain packaging of a certain brand would be a hit in the market. The bigger brand usually goes with the first option and they don’t take as much risk as possible. So if that way disruption has to happen, brands need to start taking more risks, brands need to explore more options. Now even when Coke is doing that they are putting up more investments, summed up Das.

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