Engaging the consumer

26 April 2013



Consumer engagement is driving packaging innovation, but price remains paramount, according to the recent report ‘Innovation in Beverage Packaging 2012’ from Canadean.


Despite widespread recovery from the trying economic times brought about by the global financial crisis, which led to the majority of beverage markets experiencing volume growth in 2012, consumers continue to exercise caution in their spending habits, with price remaining the dominant factor influencing product choice.

Thus, in an increasingly fast-moving and competitive marketplace, innovation in packaging represents a vital component of the global beverage sector's drive for growth, and two major growth-spurring trends have emerged from the current market landscape: consumer engagement and cost reduction.

Consumer engagement

In an attempt to mitigate consumers' increasingly cost-conscious spending habits and foster growth in the beverage market, the past two years have seen producers place mounting focus on consumer convenience. Through sufficient consumer engagement, they hope to overcome the price sensitivity that persists following the global economic downturn.

To this end, they have actively sought consumer input regarding more suitable shapes, sizes and packaging designs, in the hope that such packaging features might trump product price despite general consumer-spending trends.

In addition to engaging consumers about packaging, the last two years have seen beverage producers increasingly seek to engage consumers with packaging. Thus, the beverage-packaging market has seen a rise in technological innovation designed to attract customers to products. These innovations include:

  • Further development of thermographic ink technology – as popularised by the Coors 'cold activated cans', which feature ink that changes from clear to blue when the product is refrigerated – will soon see the use of inks that can change from any one colour to any other colour.
  • Use of UV-sensitive ink to create 'glow in the dark' cans or bottles, which has been explored by Heineken and Monster.
  • New embossing technology, which allows the creation of a textured design over the entire surface of a can. Again, Heineken has sought to capitalise on this by launching a can that is embossed all over, which not only allows for a better grip of the can, but also gives the impression of condensation, making the product look chilled.
  • Ball Packaging Europe has experimented with the use of augmented reality technology, inviting its target audience of 12-18-year-olds to unleash the 'toon in the can' by scanning it with their smartphones, which reveals an animated 3D character.
  • Churchkey Can Co has looked to the past for inspiration, and has reintroduced flat-top cans that necessitate the use of a 'churchkey' for a Pilsner-style beer, with the tag-line: "The harder it is to achieve your goal, the greater the satisfaction", demonstrating that customer engagement through packaging need not be solely concerned with 'new' developments.

Cost reduction

Despite these attempts to engage with consumers through innovative packaging, beverage producers have been put under increasing pressure to concentrate on their own profit margins following rises in raw materials prices. Consequently, the second – though perhaps overriding – major driver in packaging innovation over the past few years has been cost, with the importance of differentiation and quality enhancement slightly diminished.

This has resulted in:

  • Substantial investment in lightweighting, which has proved a significant factor in reducing cost. However, it should be noted that further developments on this front are likely to be limited, as the lightweighting enterprise is considered to be reaching its outer limits.
  • The development of non-traditional pack types.
  • The wine industry has looked for alternatives to its traditional glass bottles, experimenting with metal cans, PET and pouch packaging. Additionally, 'on-the-go', single-serve wine packaging – with the look, feel and weight of a wine glass, and a removable seal lid - has been introduced, targeting outdoor events, sporting events and festivals.
  • 'Tapje' kegs have been introduced by the beer industry: small draft-beer systems that offer an innovative, cost-effective alternative to the traditional crate of beer, providing greater flexibility and a better-preserved product to consumers.
  • Pepsi and Coca-Cola have sought to develop eco-friendly bottles, made either from recycled plastic or from plant products such as switch grass, pine bark and corn husks.

Thus, it can be seen that while the underlying consumer convenience factors continue to drive demand, the current economic climate requires these added-value features be achieved with minimal cost.

This has placed more pressure on technical research and development in packaging innovation – something that has not gone unnoticed by the packaging industry, with Canadean's 2012 survey of industry professionals presenting visual impact, cost reduction and functionality as three equally important drivers of innovation in the coming three years.

Despite the recognised challenges, packaging industry experts remain optimistic about the future of packaging innovation, predicting continued growth in the industry for the next three years.

Coors ‘cold activated cans’ use ink that changes from clear to blue when refrigerated
About Canadean
Global wine packaging by pack type, 2012
Churchkey Can Co has reintroduced flat-top cans, which require a ‘churchkey’ for opening


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