Disrupting the Retail Shelf by Implementing an Innovative Flexible Packaging Strategy

By: Dennis Calamusa President-CEO ALLIEDFLEX® Technologies, Inc.

Consumer product companies often seem to make a million excuses as to why they stick with their legacy packaging that they have utilized for many decades, but these are excuses that typically only suit their objective to “not change” due to internal challenges, both real and perceived. These excuses only delay the inevitable, as sooner or later they will need to yield to the pressures of escalating cost and preferences by both the consumer and the retailer.

A growing risk is that they will gradually begin to lose market share to more agile entrepreneurial competitors with nothing to lose and everything to gain by re-inventing the retail marketing landscape with fresh innovative and consumer appealing products and packaging.

Today, being different is a strategy and if you can disrupt the retail shelf by being different you can gain market share from even the most powerful market leader. We are seeing this realization happening in real time across the market place “aisle by aisle”.

The day of the traditional super market or local corner grocery store is quickly fading into the past. Now replaced by a multitude of specialty stores, convenience stores and mega super centers which are all competing for today’s busy “on the go” consumer. These various newer retail outlets are competing effectively by creating a different and unique shopping experience for the consumer than the traditional supermarket chain by capturing the consumer’s attention with new value-added products, new re-packaged products, private label brands and healthy convenient alternatives. They are leveraging “being different” to their advantage and disrupting the status quo.

Besides these new product initiatives many companies and retailers are also “re-packaging” their new product introductions with new exciting and innovative forms of packaging. Gone are the days of introducing a new product in the same old traditional box, carton, can, glass bottle – jar or canister. Instead these new generation product introductions are being presented in new packaging and the package of choice is innovative flexible packaging in a wide variety of formats, shapes and sizes to suit the specific targeted market, consumer demographic or price point.

On-line shopping is now utilized by hundreds of millions of shoppers for the convenience of purchasing a multitude of products including those that we would typically purchase at our local supermarket. This phenomenon is causing drama for many of the large multinationals whereby their traditional legacy packaging (heavy, bulky, fragile) is not suitable or practical for e-commerce since that was never the intension 40-50 years ago. As a result, many are now scrambling to redesign and re-package their products for this inevitable growing shift toward e-commerce consumerism.

Today’s flexible packaging is incorporating convenience features including “press to close” or slider zippers, spouts, fitments and other innovative reclose and dispensing methods. With these features the flexible package format has truly become a functional solution effectively competing as an alternative to a multitude of rigid or semi-rigid traditional package formats.

For example, by adding a reclosable zipper to a standup pouch you can now extend shelf life after the package is opened by providing an integrated method of reclosability, a popular request by the consumer. Adding a reclosable feature to a pouch or bag extends quality, flavor and shelf life and eliminates the need for the consumer to “re-package” the product at home by some other means and possibly disposing of the original printed packaging and brand name.

By adding a spout or fitment to the flexible package we can now create a convenient multi-serve alternative with the added benefit of being “squeezable” for consumption or ease of dispensing.

As we know, flexible packaging offers brilliant printed graphics and eliminates the need for added labeling as required for cans, jars or canisters. This simplifies the packaging process and dramatically reduces the need for additional equipment and associated cost.

To further accommodate a “grab and go” marketing the flexible package can also incorporate a hanging hole punch which enables the flexible package to be pegged for display marketing. The bottom gusset of the popular standup pouch format enables it to stand tall next to cartons, bottles and cans on the shelf and still provide an important point of differentiation. This versatility and flexibility in marketing is a major advantage and is one of the key reasons why such a huge shift toward flexible packaging is underway.

The major product categories that are shifting into flexible packaging are huge and cover a multitude of market segments including snacks, breakfast cereals, croutons, crackers, biscuits, instant beverages, protein powders, confections, processed foods, instant foods, frozen foods, refrigerated meals, meal kits, dairy products, baby food, fruit puree, yogurt, single serve beverages and juices, condiments, soups, gravies, desert toppings, fresh produce, wine, spirits, liquid detergents, powdered detergents, detergent pods, personal care, pet foods, pet treats, agricultural products and chemicals. The list of product applications is growing with no end in sight.

Besides the consumer appeal of these newly packaged goods there is also the practical side of changing from a rigid container or a bag in box package for the packager. Logistics – Logistics – Logistics. Major cost is carried in the transportation of packaging and finished packaged goods. Transport, warehousing and material handling are all major on-going costs. Companies of all sizes need to take these escalating logistical costs and expenses seriously if they are going to maintain profitability against their completion in the years to come.

Environmental concerns toward flexible packaging are often expressed as most pouches and bags that utilize laminated materials are not recyclable at this time, however there is considerable effort underway by the flexible packaging industry to find creative ways of re-use and re-purpose packaging waste. In addition, recyclable pouches are also on their way!

In some parts of the world waste to energy appears much more practical than landfill disposal considering the high BTU content of flexible packaging as compared to other energy sources. Burying clean plastic in landfills does not seem like a prudent long-term solution and is a waste of a viable energy resource. Numerous studies illustrate that flexible packaging utilizes less energy to produce and delivers a substantially smaller carbon footprint as compared to more traditional forms of rigid packaging.

It is important to note that just because a rigid container is capable of being recycled doesn’t mean it will be. Even with the growing awareness regarding recycling unless specific regulations are in place in many parts of the world large quantities of recyclable containers still end up in landfill or even worse as litter on land or in our water ways and oceans. That being said all packaging waste needs to be better managed, collected and contained for proper disposal.

The shift toward packaging change is on, but no need to panic, just start getting on board. Raise your awareness as to what is happening around you and in the market.

If you are the Marketing Manager, Packaging Manager, Production Manager or even the Owner of your company you are surely constantly exploring creative ways to reduce cost, grow the business and increase sales, well this could be the opportunity that you have been looking for to turn your flat sales or stagnate brand around by gaining or re-capturing some valuable market share.

Become an advocate and leader within your organization to facilitate change and “catch the wave” toward the global shift to innovative flexible packaging. In doing so, you will join the thousands of forward looking individuals who are changing the world and the history of packaging – one package at a time.

Calamusa is a well-known thought leader in the packaging field. He has worked diligently over the past 25 years on the shift toward innovative flexible packaging. He is a global packaging industry collaborator and has been an advocate and is known to be major driving force behind the North American shift toward the popular standup pouch packaging format. For more information, go to: standuppouch.com