Packaging is about more than just cool designs and innovations -- isn't it? After a few sessions -- and side conversations -- about packaging at the Plastics News Executive Forum this week, I'm starting to wonder. I was under the impression that packaging executives care about resin pricing and saving pennies on automation and efficiency. At the forum, I was told that they focus on things like design thinking and open innovation. It turns out these are hot trends in manufacturing, but the packaging sector already has a big head start. (Watch for Plastics News' stories and videos from the forum in the coming weeks for more information on those trends.) And just to reinforce the message, here's a blog post from Forbes magazine's CIO Central section, of all places, along the same lines. The author is Jack Knott, chairman and CEO of Exopack Holding Corp. Knott writes that Exopack has invested in new information technology systems -- not to save money, but to "more quickly and effectively service our customers. ... This was not a capacity expansion strategy but one which allows us to better meet the changing needs of the marketplace. As economic factors improve, we will be ready to respond quickly and with novel packaging solutions."
So will consumers recognize this commitment to excellence during their normal shopping excursions? According to IPG Media Lab, 74 percent of shoppers say the package is a critical element to making a final product selection. Whether the product attracts their attention on the retail shelf because they recognize a favorite, trustworthy brand or a unique package format that may make their life easier, they are looking at the package. The sensory promise that is conveyed through state-of-the-art printing may increase the perceived value of a frozen food package while the ease of handling of a large heavy package with handles makes for a grateful customer transferring packages to the trunk of their car. Other innovations will go unnoticed by the consumer, but will help keep prices in check by reducing damage and waste in the distribution channel.Will the CIO crowd understand concepts like sensory promises? Based on my conversations at the Forum, if they're the packaging market, I think they will.