Judging Food by Its Cover: CPG Companies Get Innovative with Packaging — How ELNs Can Help
In order to create America’s “next favorite snack,” mastering the flavor and smell of the food item is only half the battle for a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company interested in making a profit. As industry heavyweight Avery Dennison warns on its website, “In the packaged goods industry, distinguishable packaging and an eye-catching shelf presentation can be the difference between sales and consumer indifference.” Apparently, the person who said, “Never judge a book by its cover,” never worked in CPG sales.
Research by psychologists and other scientists have also supported claims that “image matters” in the CPG industry. As Mudit Mittal writes in an article for Medium, “In the store, the packaging acts as a gateway to the product. Consumers look at the packaging and respond to how it makes them feel at that moment.” Another researcher writing for Small Food Business, informs the reader that “There is an art esthetic that comes into play when packaging and many times being able to tap into that side of the packaging concept is what touches the hearts and value systems of your target consumer. Whatever you do to package your food item, just make sure you are ‘playing their tune.'”
However, beyond enticing consumers with the beauty and colors of packaging materials, there are other considerations CPG companies must make in deciding how products are presented. For example, CPG companies and those who work with them to produce packaged goods must also consider the costs of materials, which are often mass-produced and as such should be easy to synthesize and distribute. Additionally, given the variable shelf lives of different foods items, industry leaders must also consider the longevity of certain materials and their appropriateness for a given item. Finally, as new plastic and glass materials are made with novel properties (i.e. some materials are very flexible or thin; plastics can come in a variety of colors or be biodegradable, etc), companies must consider the safety of using these materials to package food items.
As became apparent with the 2012 BPA (bisphenol-A) controversy, consumers are increasingly sensitive to not just what is inside their foods and beverages, but also the materials used to package their favorite items. As Forbes states, “BPA has been widely used for over 50 years in plastics and in the linings of food and beverage containers. The latter use has effectively eliminated the problem of food spoilage in canned foods.” Still, consumers and others latched on to studies showing that female mice exposed to BPA in utero experienced “adverse effects on the ovaries” and suddenly bottles and containers appeared that were “BPA free.”
Considering this information together, how might a CPG company balance potentially contradictory needs? How does a company pursue beauty and style, while also producing long-lived and cost-effective materials that are safe (and will be understood as safe) for its consumers?
Actionable sets and ELNs
Electronic lab notebooks (ELNs) have revolutionized a number of industries by providing increased efficiency, streamlining experimental efforts and saving organizations’ time, as we’ve previously discussed.
Applied specifically toward CPG companies and particularly those who provide packaging for products, these are specific ways in which ELNs can enable a company to balance and even augment its ability to fulfill various needs:
- Style/Beauty: ELNs enable employees from across a company to share data in a variety of forms (electronic documents, videos, images, etc). This increased capacity for collaboration can ensure that all individuals are able to record their ideas and also view the ideas of others, thus ensuring that projects move forward. Images of competitors’ items, as well as any inspirational design solutions, could be stored as images and then uploaded to a “creative commons” section of an ELN.
- Safety: As published in the Journal of Food Science, “packaging maintains the benefits of food processing after the process is complete, enabling foods to travel safely for long distances…” Using an ELN, companies can maintain the largely positive safety record of CPG companies by tracking items via “unique codes [incorporated] onto…package labels of their products” and recording tests of both their biological, chemical and physical protection capabilities. As well, ELNs enable researchers to upload relevant research done by outside bodies and share with others. By consolidating this information in a single space, company regulators might foresee controversies and prevent them by deciding, for example, to forgo the use of a specific residual monomer and its components if health concerns are raised.
- Materials Science: Package construction and the materials used strongly influence the shelf lives of food products. According to the Journal of Food Science, “materials that have traditionally been used in food packaging include glass, metals, paper and paperboards, and plastics. Moreover, a wider variety of plastics have been introduced in both rigid and flexible forms.” Research is currently directed toward improving food packaging, especially as it pertains to reducing the environmental impact of these items. As novel items become available, the use of Safety Data sheets which can be stored in an ELN database, careful labeling and the development of appropriate training programs, will ensure the integrity of packaging materials and the likelihood that research done on the materials side, can actually be used to create a better packaging vessel.
- Costs: CPG companies spend a significant amount of money on ensuring that packaging works for both the company and consumers. By establishing a standardized system that encourages innovation and collaboration, while ensuring the company is within regulatory rules and safety requirements, CPG companies using ELNs can potentially save money by streamlining the organization, reducing the costs of wasteful expenditures and decreasing the likelihood of contamination or product recalls.
There are many more benefits for packaging companies to consider using ELNs in their own work. The features of the BIOVIA Notebook can help your CPG firm address efficiency and innovation in an effort to become more competitive in today’s evolving marketplace. To learn more, please visit our website today.