There is a saying in the packaging industry to the effect that "everybody thinks he is an expert on the subject." The implication of this judgment is that, of course, "they don't know the half of it." The public is intensely exposed to packaging, and its members will of course have an opinion, indeed an informed opinion. At the same time packaging is a vast subject extending deep in one direction to very hidden and sophisticated areas of materials science, in another into the protection of public health and welfare; it is the pillar supporting at least three major industries (paper and board, plastics, and glass); it is fought over by people who want to use its labels for disclosure and those who want "truth in advertising"; it is a very important branch of marketing and also of design activities; it is in itself a large and expensive industrial activity sometimes separate from production, placed at its end, sometimes integrated into the manufacturing process; it has its major subdivision of portion packaging, packaging, and outer packaging or packing; everything rides on its pallets; it is an important aspect of transportation, warehousing, and distribution generally; the word is used symbolically to mean "the artful presentation" of something, such as the "packaging" of a celebrity; finally, spent packaging is the bulk of solid waste and carelessly discarded packaging that is the litter of the U.S.A.
Packaging is nothing new and predates modern times, but the form it takes is a direct reflection of settlement patterns, the reach of the economy, food preservation technology, and the nature of the transportation system. Before the modern era took serious hold after World War I, only a few products were packaged. Canning dates back to the days of Napoleon, some of whose formations, marching into Russia, received canned goods in newly invented tin-lined metal cans. Other long-lasting products (what today we call long shelf-life products), like hard biscuits and cookies, were packaged; chocolates and candies came in fancy boxes as well. Perfumes were an early and highly visible packaged product. All of these, and others, from the very beginning, bore brand identifications. Many small products like buttons and needles were prepackaged. Packaging initially served the needs and convenience of the seller; the package itself became a container in the consumer's home. Urban settlement was dense. Refrigeration was not yet wide-spread. Food shopping took place daily. People took milk or oil cans to the store to have them filled; preserves came in glass that could be recycled; paper packaging was used, often made on the spot from sheets by the merchant; the "shopping basket" itself was the generic carrier of groceries. Long distance packing used to be in crates fashioned of wood. Of that technology today only the wood pallet survives.
Packaging technology saw intense development immediately before and during World War II in efforts to supply the fighting forces—and not just those of the U.S. Mass distribution of packaged products began and then continued thereafter. Sturdy Kraft paper, two outer layers reinforced by a corrugated inner layer (the corrugated box) took over bulk packaging. Milk began to transit from recyclable glass bottles to paper containers initially coated with wax and then, after the war, by hot melt plastics, a combination of wax and plastics. Plastics saw an immense expansion in the 1950s and 60s; polyethylene became a staple of flexible packaging, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) became a standard form of transparent packaging, and polyurethane foam plastics came to dominate a field that had once belong to pressed paper pulp. Composite materials (laminates) became possible as a consequence of the emergence of high-performance adhesives. Packaging grew stronger, lighter, and easier to process by machine. Aluminum entered the beverage market as aluminum cans and also as easy-open closures for steel cans. As mass production developed in the underlying materials, and forming and packaging machinery became ever more affordable, many products not heretofore packaged were now "shrink-wrapped" onto sheets of cardboard, bagged, and boxed. In parallel with the physical development of packaging, companies exploited the surfaces of packaging to print their brand names and messages, a process aided by rapidly advancing printing technology and improved inks. The potential of using the package itself as a means of differentiation or a means of delivering convenience (the single-cup tea bag, the single-serving ketchup package) rapidly created a brand-new dimension in packaging. Packaging and marketing began to merge. Packaging grew in total volume to such an extent that by the 1970s it began to attract government attention as a new cost imposed on waste disposal systems. Discarded packaging—particularly after cans took over beer and soft drink distribution from recyclable bottles—produced deposit legislation aimed at curbing litter.
By the 1970s packaging had reached maturity and has since evolved less dramatically and visibly. However, the underlying materials sciences are still producing ever better and ever more specialized and differentiated packaging. As the early 2000s advance, the protective capacities of packaging are improving so that some heretofore refrigerated products are available on ordinary shelves and others will likely follow. New composites are announced every year. Competition between materials continues; costlier materials like metals, paper, and glass are everywhere pressed by plastics; this trend, however, may reverse if the price of oil (the source of plastics) keeps climbing. Strange and wonderful extensions of the packaging-marketing synthesis are being talked about, like imprinting fresh fruit with messages adhering to microscopically thin coatings….
The continuing evolution of packaging at a technical level serves as an indicator that, despite much hype about the package as a promotional vehicle, the predominant function of packaging in the economy is product protection first, convenience next. The consumer also values objective information. Functionally, the hype comes last.
Packaging divides into bulk, product, and portion packaging. Bulk packaging takes the form of cardboard boxes (much more rarely crates) and the pallets that carry these; it is intended to protect and is rarely ever used to advertise (except the maker of the box itself); even automobiles have bulk packaging in the form of protective sheets attached to windshields and other external features. Product packaging typically has two roles: protection and communication. The communication may be promotional, a service to the user (menus, preparation instructions), or a labeling requirement. The chief purpose of portion packaging is to deliver convenience—although such packaging also carries a message.
The producer needs to balance various aspects of a packaging system. In roughly the following order of importance, these are product protection, good production fit, low cost, and exploitability for marketing. To be sure, the package itself, first of all, must meet whatever regulations apply. Product protection includes basic product integrity and includes as long a shelf life as possible. The producer will prefer a system that permits rapid and efficient production with the lowest packaging equipment and packaging material costs. When given a choice, the surfaces should display the producer's messages as attractively as possible.
From the consumer's point of view, the ideal package will be easy to store, to open, and to close. It should be safe. It should carry warnings. If the product requires assembly or instructions to use, information should be present, and it should be clear. Consumers, of course, use brand identifications to choose products, but their strongest interest is in objective information carried on the labels, one reason why Congress has moved, in response, to require such labeling. People want to know what they are buying: Is it wool or polyester? How long will this half-and-half last? Can I use this as a diabetic? All else equal, the consumer also will prefer a package that can be reused in some way.
PACKAGING AS A BUSINESS FUNCTION
It is clear from the discussion thus far that packaging, for the business owner, touches all aspects of the business. All depending on the product, of course, it may involve significant engineering work to ensure fit with the production process, satisfy legal requirements regarding safety, yet incorporate the aesthetics chosen for product promotion. Packaging often involves aggregation of multiple units into one package. The optimal package cost for the right aggregate has to be priced properly to achieve desired volume while fitting vendors' shelf space. Product aesthetics must accommodate legal labeling requirements. Different modes of packaging will deliver higher and lower out-of-pocket costs but may produce harder-to-predict sales volumes.
These problems tend to sort out reasonably well because a great variety of analogous cases exist in the market to suggest which general model to follow—or which edge of which envelope to push. Packaging is a large and sophisticated industry, and the small business owner will be able to identify both package designers and suppliers of packaging equipment easily enough. Designers typically know the equipment available; conversely, packaging equipment suppliers can recommend designers they work with routinely.
LABELING: CONSUMERS WANT IT
The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966 regulates packaging and labeling. The act requires that every product package specify on its "principal display label"—that part of the label most likely to be seen by consumers—the following information: 1) the product type; 2) the producer or processor's name and location; 3) the quantity (if applicable); and 4) the number and size of servings (if applicable). Furthermore, several restrictions apply to the way that the label is displayed. For example, mandatory copy required by the act must be in boldface type. Also, if the company is not listed in the telephone book, the manufacturer's or importer's street address must be displayed.
Foods, toys, drugs, cosmetics, furs, and textiles require special labeling. Under the act, the label for edible products, for example, must provide sodium content if other nutritional information is also shown. Labels must also show ingredients, in descending order from the one of highest quantity to the one of least quantity. Certain food items, such as beef, may also be required to display qualitative "grade labels" or inspection labels. Likewise, "informative labeling" may be required for products such as home appliances. Informative label requirements mandate information about use, care, performance capability, life expectancy, safety precautions, gas mileage, or other factors. Certain major home appliances, for example, must provide the estimated cost of running each make and model for one year at average utility rates.
Congress passed significant new labeling legislation, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990; the act became effective in the mid-1990s. This act is intended primarily to discourage misleading labeling related to health benefits of food items. Specifically, many package labels subjectively claimed that their contents were "low-fat," "high-fiber," or possessed some other health virtue when the facts indicated otherwise. Basically, the new laws require most food labels to specify values such as calorie and cholesterol content, fat and saturated fat percentages, and sodium levels.
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Gordon, Stacey King. Packaging Makeovers: Graphic Redesign for Market Change. Rockport Publishers, 2005.
"Palletizer Handles Small Packages." Product News Network. 14 April 2006.
Reardon, Corey M. "Metalized Papers and Films: A New Focus for Global Growth." Paper, Film & Foil Converter. 19 April 2006.
Roth, Laszlo, and George L. Wybenga. The Packaging Designer's Book of Patterns. Wiley, 2000.
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Special Packaging Designs. Pepin Press, 2004.
Product packaging used to be regarded as a rather utilitarian marketing activity whose functions were to protect the product and to provide a convenient way to transport and store the product along the marketing channel. Since the late twentieth century, packaging has evolved into one of the more important marketing tools to enhance sales of a product. Product packaging, including the labels on the package, is the last opportunity to influence the purchase decision of the consumer at the point of purchase.
Supermarket shelves are cluttered with multiple brands competing for the attention of shoppers. Some estimates are that the average consumer passes approximately 300 items per minute during a shopping trip to the supermarket. Depending on the product category, up to 70 percent of all brand purchase decisions are made at the point of purchase. Thus, the product package should be considered one of the most important components of a marketing effort. As such, it should be designed to attract the attention of the consumer and promote the sale of the product.
Product packaging can be defined as all the activities that:
- are involved in developing and producing the covering(s) and/or container(s) that provide protection for the product;
- facilitate product handling and storage;
- assist in the marketing and promotional efforts; and
- enhance the use of the product by the consumer.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated that over 8 cents out of every consumer food dollar was spent on packaging. In fact, many "companies spend more on packaging than on advertising" (Hoffman, 2006, p. 299). In 2004 the total global market for consumer packaging exceeded $350 billion, with a growth rate of about 4 percent annually over the previous ten years. With $98 billion in sales, North America accounted for 28 percent of the market. Food and beverages accounted for approximately 70 percent of all consumer packaging.
Most consumer products, large and small, require some packaging. Refrigerators and other large appliances are normally shipped in a cardboard carton to protect the finish of the unit, and may include internal packing material to protect the mechanical components. On the other hand, small screws are packaged in small plastic boxes or plastic pouches. Some packaging requires minimal information (refrigerator carton), some have selected informational copy (bread), and others have a significant amount of marketing promotional design and copy (branded cookies).
Often a given product will have several layers of packaging each with different functions. The product's primary container is the immediate package that holds the product (such as the plastic tube that contains the toothpaste). The primary container may then be placed in a secondary package for easier stacking, promotional communication, and display on merchandising shelves (the colorful box that holds the tube of toothpaste). Finally, there is the shipping carton—usually corrugated boxes—which will hold a quantity of the products for easy identification, transportation, handling, and storage (six-dozen
boxed tubes of toothpaste to a carton). It is easy to see that, in some cases, the cost of packaging a product (toothpaste) may far exceed the value of the actual product (the paste).
FUNCTIONS OF PACKAGING
Packaging is designed to serve one or more of several functions: product protection; easy and efficient handling and storage; providing useful identification and information; and contributing to the marketing and promotional efforts. Products need to be protected from rough handling, the environment, and spoilage. Most products need to move through a marketing channel from the end of the production line to the home of the final consumer. A number of different people and machines will physically handle (or mishandle) the product as it flows through the channel, which will likely involve loading and unloading, transporting, storing, and stocking the product on the vendors' shelves. The shipping containers must be designed to withstand all of the rough handling to which a package and product may be exposed.
The environment poses other dangers to products. Light (which affects milk and beer), moisture (chips and dried soups), temperature (ice cream and meats), and excessive movement (soft drinks) are a few of the environ-mental concerns for certain products. Another major concern is to protect the product from tampering and, in some cases, shoplifting.
Size, weight, dimensions, and stackability are just a few of the factors that need to be considered in designing packaging for easy and efficient handling of the product. Some automated product handlers have limitations that may influence the package dimensions or weight. How efficiently the product uses allotted space in the tractor trailer can reduce shipping costs. How much space a product uses and how easy it is to stack on the shelf may determine if a retailer carries certain products. These are just a few of the logistical concerns that need to be considered when creating the packaging for a product.
Certain basic identification and information will need to be included on the various layers of packaging required for a product. The shipping cartons will need to identify such things as the product, the brand/company, the quantity, handling instruction, and any dangers associated with handling the product. The primary package and/or the secondary package, if that is what the consumer sees on the shelf, will need information such as: the brand name; quantity; contents or ingredients; suggested usage and instructions for use; any legally required information; "use-before" dates; and the Universal Product Code.
Finally, the marketing and promotional function should definitely be considered in designing the primary product packaging. This function is concerned with two characteristics of the package: attracting attention and the marketable attributes of the product. It is vital that the product's package attract the attention of shopping consumers. The use of color, shape, size, and graphic design are some of the common elements used to attract attention.
There are four situations when the ability of the package to attract the attention of shoppers is beneficial. In some cases the design, particularly the color graphics, allows for more efficient shopping by consumers who are looking for a brand they normally purchase. Shoppers do not initially read brand names, but rather they look for the familiar package and then confirm the brand name (such as Tide in the bright orange box). Being able to find preferred brands quickly will significantly reduce the chance of shoppers buying competing brands.
The second situation is when the package design is recognized from previous exposure of the consumer to promotional advertisements. Seeing the package on the shelf could cause consumers to consciously, or subconsciously, recall a favorable attitude toward the product and increase the likelihood of purchasing the product. It is also a common occurrence that the shopper wants to buy a given item but is not familiar with any of the brands. The package then becomes the primary source of informational and promotional communications, with the brand selection being based on the package. The fourth situation is the pure impulse purchase. In this case shoppers had not considered buying the product until the package attracts their attention and they are enticed to purchase the product.
In addition to drawing the attention of the shopper, the package itself may have attributes that significantly increase the attractiveness of buying a given brand. These are attributes that make the product easier to transport, store, and use, such as multiunit packaging; package dimensions that fit in the refrigerator door or on standard height shelves; and packaging which is easy to open, resealable, reusable, microwaveable and/or pourable. Some consumers also have a strong preference for environmentally friendly packaging that is recyclable or biodegradable. Any of these features may persuade a shopper to purchase a given brand of a product and should be considered when designing product packaging.
see also Marketing ; Promotion
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PACKAGING. Even before modern mass packaging, merchants sold goods in crocks, barrels, or bottles or wrapped in paper, fabric, or leaves. Some of the earliest prepackaged, prelabeled items were patent medicines and tobacco products. However, most products before the late nineteenth century were sold loose from bulk containers.
The history of modern mass-produced, prepackaged products parallels the rise of complex industrial organization and standardized, large-scale production processes beginning in the late nineteenth century. Industry began to use packages as a way to sell a visually distinctive national brand—promoting it in the new mass-media advertising outlets—to consumers who increasingly shopped not in dry goods stores but in large, well-stocked department stores and supermarkets. Thus, innovation in industrial organization, production processes, and advertising media evolved synergistically with innovations in packaging technologies and processes. This was particularly true in the food industry, where the rise of mason jar–steam pressure packing (1870s), tin can manufacturing machinery (early 1900s), and the paper carton enabled more products to be sold on a wider scale and advertised by brand. General Foods and many other large, multi-national corporations arose from the merger of many smaller companies whose brands had become known to consumers through their distinctive packaging. Along with new packaging techniques came new forms of food preservation, such as freezing and pasteurization. Later, the rise of aseptic and shrink-wrap technologies, along with new preservation technologies, paralleled the rise of the globalized fresh food economy.
In tandem with the rise of packaging technologies was the development of product design and labeling. American package design lagged behind that of the European manufacturers, but by the 1920s, the United States began to draw heavily from the European Beaux Arts movement to create a more modern-looking package that sold the product. Increasingly efficient packaging machinery also became more sophisticated in terms of meeting advanced design requirements, including the development of flexographic printing and other forms of advanced lithography.
Along with the development of modern packaging design came consumer demands for greater information about the nature of the goods within. From the beginning, manufacturers made unsubstantiated claims on packages and associated advertisements. In response, the pure food consumer movement lobbied for the legislation that created labeling criteria for ingredients and additives. Concerns over nutrition also led to the establishment of nutritional information on food packages. Over time, packages displayed more third-party certifications of quality and purity, such as awards from international expositions. Increasing consumer concern led to a proliferation of certifications on packages, from industrial standards of manufacture to parent association approvals.
Public concern moved to the question of packaging itself. Environmental movements led to the establishment of recycled packaging as well as demands for "source reduction" in the packaging system. Nevertheless, these trends are often counteracted by demands for convenience and safety.
Chandler, Alfred. Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the American Industrial Enterprise. Boston: MIT Press, 1962.
Heller, Steven. "Commercial Modern: American Design Style, 1925–1933." Print 49 (1995): 58–69.
pack·age / ˈpakij/ • n. an object or group of objects wrapped in paper or plastic, or packed in a box. ∎ the box or bag in which things are packed. ∎ a packet: a package of peanuts. ∎ (also package deal) a set of proposals or terms offered or agreed to as a whole: a package of economic reforms. ∎ inf. a package tour. ∎ Comput. a collection of programs or subroutines with related functionality. • v. [tr.] (usu. be packaged) put into a box or wrapping, esp. for sale: choose products that are packaged in recyclable materials | [as adj.] (packaged) packaged foods. ∎ present (someone or something) in a particular way, esp. to make them more attractive: [as adj.] (packaged) everything became a carefully packaged photo opportunity. ∎ combine (various products) for sale as one unit: films would be packaged with the pictures of a production company. ∎ commission and produce (a book, typically a highly illustrated one) to sell as a complete product to publishers: it's a question of trying to package the book properly. DERIVATIVES: pack·ag·er n.
1. See application package.
2. In Ada, a self-contained collection of entities (data objects and procedures) that are available for other parts of a program to use. A package consists of two parts that can be separately compiled: its specification and its body. The specification provides the public information about the entities that the package makes available, in the form of declarations of constants, variables, and data types, and procedure headers. It may also contain a private part giving further information about types and constants that is needed by the compiler but not by a programmer using the package. The package body contains the procedure bodies for the procedures that form part of the package, together with local variables and types that these procedures may need. The separation of specification and body means that the implementation of the procedures is hidden from the users, thus a package is a realization of an abstract data type.
Similar features are found in other languages, particularly Modula 2: here the term module is used in preference to package. In Modula 2 a module comprises a definition part and an implementation part, corresponding to the specification and body of the Ada package. The main difference is that the definition part of a module contains declarations of all the objects required by the module, together with an export list specifying which objects are visible outside the module.
packaging, containment and packing prior to sale with the primary purpose of facilitating the purchase and use of a product. Before 1800 packaging was restricted almost entirely to containment for shipping, with minimum levels of protection and preservation. Grocery bags, for example, were known in the 17th cent.; however, it was not until the 19th cent. that practical bag-making machinery was developed. That century saw the emergence of metal cans (1810), setup boxes (1844), folding cartons (1879), and the Owens bottle machine (1899). Early in the 20th cent., marketing-oriented packaging began to evolve and branding, quality, storage and handling, and point-of-sale display became important attributes. By the end of World War II, packaging had become a major medium of advertising and marketing. In recent years, consumer advocates have argued that packages should contain more information on nutrition, unit costs, and contents. The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966 gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to determine that packages are labeled accurately; the 1990 Nutrition Labeling Act required packages to contain more nutritional information, forcing companies to relabel about 75% of all goods carried by supermarkets. Environmental concerns have led to the passage of state and local laws requiring that some types of packages (notably bottles and cans) be recycled. Manufacturers are attempting to allay further regulation by developing and using packages that cause less damage to the environment.
pack·ag·ing / ˈpakijing/ • n. materials used to wrap or protect goods. ∎ the business or process of packing goods. ∎ the presentation of a person, product, or action in a particular way: diplomatic packaging of the key provisions will make a confrontation unlikely.