Consumer demand is changing the role of secondary packaging

Nov 07, 2014

The traditional role of secondary packaging has been to protect the primary package as it travels through the supply chain to its final retail destination. Packaging engineers are always looking for cost savings by light-weighting materials, using more recycled materials and reducing the volume of packaging.

But the recent trend of having secondary packaging play a dual role as transport platform and merchandising tool to attract consumers at the point of purchase has caused new focus on the topic from both packaging engineers and their cousins in marketing. A report on secondary packaging released this week by the PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, at the group’s annual PackExpo in Chicago gives analysis on the trends that continue to drive change and examines how consumer package goods and retail companies are lowering overall packaging costs.

From a consumer demand perspective, the trends affecting secondary packaging include the growth in e-commerce and secondary displays for in-store promotions, which have increased corrugated usage.

Separately, the push by leading retailers such as Walmart to become more environmentally sustainable is resulting in a move to reusable containers while increased labor costs are driving the push to create merchandising platforms that are ready to be placed on the store floor with minimal or no set-up.

How important is secondary packaging becoming as a marketing/merchandising tool for retailers? What trends in packaging do you think will have the greatest impact on retailers and manufacturers over the next several years?

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4 Comments on "Consumer demand is changing the role of secondary packaging"

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Ian Percy
7 years 6 months ago

I’m not informed enough to actually answer the question, though that’s never stopped me before. As one who is currently working on a packaging challenge, it seems to me if one package can do it all instead of the expense of two, that’s the way it should be done.

What I really want to declare is my absolute admiration for those in the packaging industry, especially those on the design side. This admiration began when I spoke to the paint and coatings association in the U.K., some members of which had been in business for hundreds of years. The complexity of their industry is what got me interested in the whole packaging thing. While I hate blister packs, the fact remains that true genius resides in this under-valued and under-recognized industry.

My highest props to packaging professionals!

James Tenser
7 years 6 months ago
Minimal outer packaging provides both cost-saving and environmental benefits. For non-fragile items like books and BluRay discs, an envelope is often enough. Applying a little branding (a logo, color scheme, etc.) to the outer wrap or corrugated does add incrementally to the cost. It may present a slight security risk too, if it makes packages look more promising to thieves. Overall it’s up to the retailer to calculate the value of the marketing benefit against those costs. It might be turned into a profit center, if a retailer could offer “gift-ready” outer packages for holiday use. From my perspective, a marketing message on the outside of a received package is not likely to alter my behavior, since it arrives after the moment of decision (my own or the gift-giver). I can think of one practical exception, however: Gifts of fresh fruit received recently from Harry & David and delicacies from Zabar’s each clearly indicated the source and that the contents were perishable. If we get more before Christmas (hint, hint), you can bet those won’t… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
7 years 6 months ago

Is the use of secondary packaging as a merchandising tool really a new trend? I remember innovative CPG brands leveraging this tactic when I started in the food biz in the ’70s. Nevertheless, this tool will continue to be utilized throughout the industry as long as impulse shopping is still viable in physical stores.

I think there are more and more innovative retailers that are using this process to set their shelf planograms down to the SKU for many categories. This saves labor, packaging expense, product loss (shrink), etc.

Ellen Freedman
Ellen Freedman
7 years 6 months ago

In my experience as a package and branding designer, this is one of the most under-utilized and overlooked opportunities for marketing/sales.

All secondary packaging, whether direct to consumer or via supply chain, already undergoes printing for identification. Why not use the available panels for further brand exposure? We are seeing more retail-ready secondary packaging in the grocery aisles in the U.S. and I think it will increase, along with POS displays, as brands strive to distinguish themselves from the overwhelming competition on-shelf.


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