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Do we really need all that packaging?

By Simon Pitman , 24-Mar-2009

Secondary packaging can serve to protect a product and also to give it a more up market appearance, but with consumers becoming both more eco- and budget-conscious its demise could be imminent.

In a crowded market place packaging says a lot about a product. Traditionally the more substantial, the more eye-catching and the more polished a product appears, the more likely a consumer is to pick it off the shelf and pop it in the basket.

A small flexi-tube or PET jar containing a premium anti-ageing cream can often look pretty insubstantial on its own, admittedly.

But package it in a padded out cardboard box and that same product can appear four times the size on the shelf, giving manufacturers significantly more space on which to emblazon the brand name and qualify product claims.

Secondary packaging gives kudos, granted

This has served both as a means of giving personal care products kudos and to convey a better brand image for the consumer.

That is until now. Today’s consumer is a more sophisticated creature with exacting requirements.

That is down to two seismic changes, the first being the rise of the naturals trends and the increasingly the eco-conscious consumer, the second being the fact that the global economic downturn is forcing consumers to rethink unnecessary purchases.

These two factors are likely to be inextricably linked and will invariably have a significant bearing on how consumers want their products to be packaged.

Naturals means greater eco awareness

The rise of the market for natural products is part of the move towards consumers looking for personal care products that have a low impact on the environment, as well as scoring high in the all-important wellbeing department.

That means they want products free of harsh chemicals and often using ingredients that have been ethically sourced or are certified as natural or organic.

In parallel consumers are also getting increasingly conscious about packaging. Recycling is a given these days, but likewise so is trying to minimise wasteful or excessive packaging.

The fact is that the time when the majority of consumers would go for the packaging that most catches their eye is increasingly becoming a thing of the past.

Now more and more consumers are stopping and thinking about the packaging and whether or not it is necessary. Given the option of purchasing a product with secondary packaging and a similar one without it, increasing numbers of consumers will go for the naked option.

Price sensitivity means drop the secondary packaging

In addition, consumers are also becoming more price-sensitive because the global downturn has left consumers with less spending power.

Bearing this in mind it is likely to be luxury cosmetics, which have traditionally been the most dressed up by secondary packaging, that is likely to be one of the hardest hit categories.

The simple fact is that secondary packaging only serves to add to the final cost of the product, which in the current market conditions, could drive consumers to seek out a less expensive alternative.

Indeed, with consumers now counting every penny, a personal care manufacturer which under-cuts the competition by a few crucial pennies because it has cut out unnecessary packaging, may well be on to a winner.

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