Environmentally responsible packaging is an integral part of the purchasing decision for younger generations, especially Gen Y who refuse to compromise when it comes to sustainability, according to American brand expert and author Dr Vickie VanHurley. Research shows that millennial consumers live a more eco-friendly lifestyle than their older counterparts and are increasingly concerned about protecting the environment. It means that, as well as providing adequate protection to a product, packaging must now meet a raft of sustainability goals.
Dr Vickie VanHurley, author and brand expert
“Packaging has long-been considered the silent salesman,” says VanHurley. “Its role is to inform and persuade the consumer to purchase while also defining the quality and function of the product. I often describe it as the ‘skin of commerce’, offering the first moment of truth for a consumer to experience that product or brand. But of course, it is also essential to protect what’s inside, and that is where the material is key. I’ve seen a number of brands fail because the lightweight eco-friendly packaging materials they are using aren’t able to shield the contents adequately, resulting in poor performance and a disappointing customer experience.”
However, one packaging material that does have significant potential in VanHurley’s opinion – both from a sustainability and performance point of view – is cartonboard. Thanks to recent advances in printing with improved colours, special effects including textures, foils, holograms, textures and embossing, it is now possible to brand an entire package whilst delivering an image of quality that helps create a distinction for the consumer. The range of finishes is virtually limitless, giving a carton visibility and attraction at the point of sale.
Structural design is also important and cartons can be created in many different shapes, including 3D options with rectangular or square panels, hexagonal, triangular, pyramidal, circular, domed and elliptical shapes – to suit the needs of the brand. They can also incorporate a plethora of special features to facilitate opening and reclosing, carrying handles, pourers, windows and internal platforms to secure and/or display the product.
Consumers are also increasingly vociferous in their desire for reassurance around product security and protection. Too often small problems turn into major issues as a result of packaging malfunctions. Cartons, however, can be designed to incorporate a wide range of security systems, based on both covert and overt technologies. Designs can include tamper-evidence, child-resistance or other security benefits through tagging mechanisms, creative constructional design as well as print and ink system technologies, providing brand owners with greater levels of confidence.
Tony Hitchin, General Manager at Pro Carton, agrees: “With the ever-increasing focus on sustainability, many consumers – particularly millennials – are looking for eco options that not only offer peak performance and communication possibilities but that are also convenient and meet strict sustainability criteria.
“Which is where cartons come in. Not only do consumers trust them and find them easier to use than other forms of packaging, but they appreciate the fact that they are made from a renewable resource, are compostable and easily recyclable. As a result, cartonboard is fast becoming the packaging medium of choice the world over.”