not that simple

Fanta_Keith

By Keith Fanta
Section Head,
Packaging Sustainability

Procter & Gamble

 




 

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DESIGNING THE PERFECT PACKAGE:
IT’S NOT AS SIMPLE AS IT SEEMS

A laundry detergent package seems like a simple thing to design. After all, laundry detergent has been around for years and most of the time, it seems to come in a bottle. How difficult could designing a package for detergent be?

Actually, laundry detergent now comes in three different forms: powder, liquid and most recently, pods. The packaging differs, depending on the form and also the amount of detergent.   Plus, the consumer for each type of detergent has different packaging requirements and priorities: The priorities of a powder detergent user do not match the priorities of a pods detergent user – that’s why these different forms exist!

First and foremost, packaging has to deliver a great consumer experience at home and communicate to the consumer while still on the store shelf. Then, consumers expect packaging that is easy to open, yet still remains spill-resistant once closed. Consumers also expect that the packaging is designed to make it easy to get the correct amount of product from the package into the washing machine, and do so with little effort and mess.

So, based on the above, we now have specific packaging designs and material types in mind. But, we’re not done, because we also must make sure the packaging can get the product safely from the manufacturing facility to the store shelf. To do so, the package needs to be tough enough to avoid breakage and spillage during the journey by protecting the product from all the drops, bumps, and shakes it might feel along the way. And since there are typically more resources used in the manufacturing of the product then the package itself, making sure that the product does not get wasted is one of the key roles that packaging plays.

OK, we’ve protected the product. What about protecting the environment? Using the least amount of packaging (while maintaining product protection) is typically the best way to minimize the environmental footprint of a package. Compactions in laundry detergent (including Tide Pods, our most compacted form) have continued to drive resource efficiency because we can deliver more product using the same amount of packaging. Other methods for reducing impacts include using recycled material, designing for recyclability, and designing for transportation efficiency.

Keep in mind that using recycled content sounds great, but it’s not always that simple. Recycled material can be technically challenging because the characteristics of recycled material can be very different from virgin material. For example, using too much recycled paperboard can create a box that is too weak to perform the tasks mentioned above. For bottles, we have had to develop a multi-layer plastic bottle that allows for sandwiching a layer of recycled material between two layers of “virgin” plastics without increasing the overall bottle weight. This allows for the use of recycled material while delivering a bottle that both looks appealing and doesn’t potentially contaminate the product.

So, something simple to look at – a detergent package – is actually quite complex to design. At a minimum, there are functional and esthetic needs; warehousing and transportation specifications; usage and storage requirements; and of course economic and environmental costs to consider.

Given all of the above, rather than being inthe packaging business, it might make more sense to describe ourselves as being in the protection business: What we protect is the product, the purse, and the planet.

 


 

Note: The conclusions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and/or Procter & Gamble. They do not necessarily reflect the views of AMERIPEN, its members, or affiliates.