Brands that sell similar products compete for the same consumer’s money on the shelf (or webpage). Your packaging could make or break that consumer’s decision to buy your product or your competitors at the point of purchase.
And while aesthetics and differentiation are key packaging design considerations, your packaging ideas and designs must be, first and foremost, feasible to manufacture.
Get your design to market faster by validating designs that are viable, and eliminating those that aren’t. You can avoid wasting time during the design phase if you first understand the basic capabilities and constraints of your packaging machine.
Ask these seven questions before creating new packaging to streamline the packaging development process.
1. What packaging machine will you run this on?
Before beginning your packaging design, determine your packaging machine’s versatility. For example, you may have chosen a certain material that helps your packaging stand out and fit well on a shelf. However, after creating the pack design you discover your machine doesn’t support it.
Familiarize yourself with the machine’s specifications and manufacturing constraints to design a viable package. If you’re unsure how your packaging machine affects feasibility, be sure to reach out to your engineering team early on in the process. Clear communication early on will prevent manufacturability issues down the line, and ultimately speed up your time to market.
2. What’s the goal of your packaging?
Ask yourself why you’re sitting down to design new packaging for your product — what’s your goal?
It could be to launch a brand-new product, to grow your market share, incorporate a new way of opening your product, implement new features such as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) or leak-proof materials, or keep up with current packaging trends.
Whatever the reason may be, it’s important to keep your goals in mind while designing and working with your engineering team for your new packaging.
3. What’s your budget?
Understanding your budget is a good way to make sure you don’t go overboard with your designs and the materials you use. Some ideas and materials are more expensive depending on the complexity of your packaging.
Another important aspect of budget and design is to understand the packaging machine that your products will be packaged in. Whether your company is using an existing machine or purchasing a new one, knowing the specs and capabilities of the packaging machine will keep the designs attainable and affordable.
4. Who are you designing the new packaging for?
Depending on the store you’re packaging will be in, your customers will have certain expectations for display and look. The challenge is to differentiate your packaging so it stands out from the competition while conforming to basic customer expectations.
Below are several modes of purchase for your product that will impact your design process:
- Convenience stores require smaller portions and ease of use. Easy-open packaging, snack packs, and easily displayed packaging are common design trends.
- Grocery stores involve a mix of designs. A popular trend is to use transparent materials so the consumer can see the item. Another is to provide the ability to reseal your food. Sizes of packaging vary but trends point toward midsized, family-oriented packaging.
- Big box stores require larger case packages and pallets of product to display on the floor. In this case, you might be designing bigger packaging that fits more product. Resealability continues to be a trend. While display isn’t as important in big box stores, your designs still need to stand out and provide ease of use to your customers.
- E-commerce requires heavier, more durable films to protect your product during shipping. While shelf display doesn’t matter as much if you’re shipping directly to consumers, the packaging should still look appealing when customers receive it.
It’s also important to understand how your packaged products will be shipped so you can design a package around the case that it’s going to be packed in. Analyze the dimension of the pack and case that will be shipped so there’s no excessive movement and the product won’t be damaged on its way to the store.
5. How is your packaging going to be presented?
Consider how your product will be presented on the shelf. Customers will see your packaging next to the competition, so yours should stand out from the rest. This will vary depending on who you’re designing the packaging for (e.g., grocery stores versus big box stores).
Different materials will be needed for different purposes — from making sure your pack stands up to having a transparent window for consumers. For example, if you’re designing packaging for a cut of meat, then you’d want a design and material that extends its shelf life while keeping the color of the meat red to appeal to consumers.
Additionally, you’ll need to determine if your design needs to incorporate holes at the top to be presented on pegs, a flat bottom to be seen on shelves, or any other designs that will help present your product. Coordinating a proper color scheme is also important to stand out on the shelf.
6. What features do you want to incorporate into your packaging design?
To answer this question, you need to keep in mind the goals of your packaging and the needs of the product itself.
Below are some common packaging features to consider adding to your design:
- Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is a process that replaces the oxygen in your packaging with a mixture of gases to extend the products shelf life. It’s common for meat products and other foods that have a limited shelf life.
- Using transparent materials is a common trend in packaging because consumers like to see what they are going to eat.
- Resealable packaging offers customer convenience and keeps the food inside fresh for longer after opening.
- Easy-open packaging offers ease of use. This could mean having a perforated slit, tab, or some way of easily opening the packaging.
- Tamper-evident seals are great for signifying if the packaging has been opened. It’s a precautionary line of defense and safety measure for the consumer’s benefit. Beyond tampering, marketers can use special materials and designs that signify to the consumer that what they are buying is legitimate.
- Leak-proof packaging is common for products with juices involved like meats and poultry.
- Microwavable packaging offers consumer convenience for cooking food such as chicken fingers and frozen meals. You could use polypropylene for a microwavable pack — it’s heat resistant, but can still be easily formed into the package.
For these packaging features and those like it, matching the correct materials with the correct packaging features is crucial for the integrity of the package.
For example, if you didn’t select the right materials for an easy-peel application, the package wouldn’t be able to withstand the pressure during shipping, and they would all open in transit. In addition to selecting the correct material, make sure your packaging machine is flexible enough to accommodate your desired features.
7. How can I factor sustainability into my packaging design?
Don’t underestimate the importance of sustainability when determining the design and materials of your new packaging.
Here are several ways you can make your packaging design more sustainable:
- Recyclability is a common way to ensure your packaging is sustainable. The materials you choose should be easily recyclable, whether that’s cardboard or an easily recycled plastic. If possible, avoid designing packaging that uses more than one type of material or film because that reduces the recyclability of the pack.
- Using less material is a simple way of being sustainable and saves you film costs. Consider designing a package with less materials without compromising the ease of use and functionality of the packaging.
- Flexible packaging can contour more easily to its surroundings than rigid packaging. More packaging and product can fit onto pallets, trucks, and on shelves, reducing your carbon footprint.
- Reusability gives your customers the option to use your packaging for additional purposes. Products packed in glass jars, for example, can be easily washed and reused.
73% of baby boomers, 75% of Gen Xers, and 82% of millennials consider sustainable packaging into their purchase decision, according to research from McKinsey. The moral of the story? Sustainability is here to stay — and designing a package that reflects consumer trends is always a smart way of standing out.
Let’s talk about designing and prototyping your package
Designing the perfect package not only takes an exceptional marketing team that uses consumer trends, designs, and color scheme to differentiate your pack from the rest, but it also takes an engineering team to turn your designs into reality.
That’s why working collaboratively with your engineers, as well as your OEM’s engineers, is essential and will make the process smoother.
Some OEMs offer prototyping services that will help you design your packaging using their intimate knowledge about the machine. This way, everyone is on the same page and no time is wasted designing impractical concepts.
If you’re looking to get the most of your packaging design, consider these factors to enhance your design and move it forward into production. And if you could benefit from our input during the design phase, let’s talk about your plans.