Consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of environment-friendly packaging, says branding and design company Switch creative director Adam Botha.
“While consumers tend to focus more on what a brand represents than the type of packaging used, media emphasis on the green phenomena has resulted in strong awareness about the importance of green packaging materials,” he comments.
Different packaging materials are continuously being developed in the industry to comply with technological advances and consumer needs.
“Bamboo packaging is a popular trend in the industry as it is recyclable and bamboo grows quickly.”
Engineering News reported in November 2010 that computer and consumables company Dell was contributing to greening the information technology sector through several packaging initiatives, including the use of bamboo packaging for the shipping of its Dell mini products.
“Environment-friendly packaging forms part of a brand’s message and is, therefore, beneficial to product manufacturers,” says Botha.
He points out that it is the responsibility of packaging designers and product manufacturers that use the packaging to ensure packaging methods are environment-friendly and move away from using harmful printing products, such as ultraviolet varnishes, to more sustainable methods, such as vegetable dyes.
The natural dyes contained in vegetables and plants can not only be extracted but can also in future possibly be used as ink to print packaging designs, which is a sustainable green method, he explains.
The problem, however, is that the industry has not developed this method to its full potential as it is not yet suitable for use in the printing of packaging materials.
Nevertheless, Botha believes that, going forward, manufacturers should consider using this method as companies are increasingly pressured to comply with green standards.
Further, he states that technology continues to change how brands communicate and interact with consumers. This results in the replacement of traditional touch points with online alternatives, such as the distribution of online brochures instead of printed brochures, which is more cost effective.
“Consumers want a 360° view of packaging and seek interaction with a brand through the information provided on packaging material.
“Companies need to communicate with consumers through blogs and competitions. Those who do not interact fall behind,” says Botha.
The packaging world has become fast-paced and it is increasingly challenging to be creative with design, as more information is needed on the material, resulting in limited space.
Botha adds that the new Consumer Protection Act (CPA) will also pose some challenges to packaging designers and users. Designers will need to find ways to emphasise and sell a brand’s strong points, despite also having to publish information about its potentially harmful effects, ingredients or substances on the packaging.
He points out that the negative aspects of a product cannot be hidden in small print on the back of packaging, as potentially dangerous substances or ingredients need to be made visible so that consumers like diabetics who may be affected, will not miss important information.
The CPA came into effect on April 1, 2011. Its aim is to protect consumers and, therefore, it impacts on the way companies are required to present their products to them.
“In the past, packaging did not tell consumers everything they needed to know. This law will help to make packaging more authentic and truthful. It is a great way to ensure that consumers are protected,” comments Botha.
Meanwhile, he states that because packaging is such an important part of the purchasing decision and experience, many brands need to rethink their packaging in terms of how digitally savvy consumers expect to engage with it.
“It’s not enough to put a quick response (QR) code on a box or packet, especially if you’re a high-end, fast-moving consumer goods brand. Consumers want immediate access to information.”
A QR code is a two-dimensional code with a large storage capacity, compared with universal product codes.
However, the use of QR codes did not receive the desired feedback from designers and consumers in the packaging industry, he states.
“Many companies placed QR codes on packaging materials and when consumers scanned the code with their phones it diverted them to the company’s website address. This questions why companies do not put their website address on the packaging instead of a QR code, as it would be less work for the consumer.”
Packaging needs to enhance purchasers’ status and it has to help them navigate information and appeal to their senses, while capturing the brand’s essence, says Botha.
As such, packaging design that provides adequate information and interacts with the consumer at this level, while also conforming to environmental responsibilities, has arguably become more important in our digital world, he concludes.