Packaging is vital when it comes to distributing, storing and selling goods. Almost everything we purchase is protected by packaging in some shape of form. Not only does packaging prevent items being damaged, it keeps them secure during transit and ensures food produce remains fresh.
Marketing and branding
Packaging is also a marketing tool which communicates product information. Most consumers judge a product by its packaging before they decide to purchase. Its shape, colour, design and font all combine to reinforce the brand and influence purchasing choices. Product details, price and logo are displayed in an eye catching way and promotional offers can be advertised.
Storage and protection
Protective packaging will keep items safe and secure. Fragile items that are made of glass or electrical goods will need to be packaged thoroughly to ensure they don’t sustain damage. Sometimes hazardous items such as petrochemicals and infectious materials need to be shipped overseas for commercial and industrial use. There are specialist companies who can provide industry standard packaging solutions for dangerous goods.
Should we be using less packaging?
Supermarkets have long been guilty of using too much packaging and many are attempting to rectify this by implementing packaging reducing targets. Many will offer incentives for reducing the number of carrier bags offered to customers while others are reducing food packaging and looking for sustainable alternatives to commonly used materials.
Common packaging materials
Plastic is one of the most versatile packaging materials, widely used in food processing and distribution. It can also be used to protect items during transit in the form of bubble wrap or Styrofoam. Plastic is cheap to produce, waterproof, lightweight and can be re-used, it is also flexible and can be moulded into shapes. The downside is that plastic is difficult to dispose of and there is some concern that it may release harmful chemicals into the environment.
Cupboard and paper
Cardboard is perceived to be less damaging to the environment. Much of it is made from sustainable wood and it can be easily disposed of or re-cycled. However, cardboard is easily damaged, is not water proof and may pose a fire risk.
Metal is lightweight and can be re-used and recycled, it is also able to withstand heat. Metal is often used by the food industry for aluminium cans. One disadvantage is that it may react with food.
Glass is heat-resistant, cheap to produce and can be reused and recycled. However it is fragile, heavy and can be dangerous when broken. Glass is commonly used for bottles and jars; for milk, alcohol, jam and coffee.
Whether we like it or not, packaging is here to stay. It is vital to ensure food safety and is essential for transporting goods. It is also an important element of the marketing mix and modern brands would not exist without it.
As increasing numbers of people shop online and goods are delivered to the home, protective packaging is likely to become even more important. In industry, items need to be shipped or flown overseas and some of these are classed as hazardous and require specialist heavy-duty packaging.
AUTHOR BIO: Ian Hills manages a company which provides air sea containers. He also writes for a range of websites and blogs.