Flexible packagingoffers many advantages to consumer product goods companies, from weight reduction and space compression to increased shelf visibility. For consumers, convenience is even more critical – serving as a differentiator that draws an initial sale and retains consumer brand loyalty. Defining convenience in flexible packaging is essential to fully leveraging all of its benefits and ensuring both initial shelf impact and long-lasting consumer/brand relationships.
New technologies can help brand managers and packaging engineers develop packaging that is easy for consumers to use, integrates well into everyday lives, and appeals to other buying influences such as environmental concerns. With these new technologies and approaches to resealable technology, flexible packaging can be effective in helping brand owners build a close relationship with consumers.
Easy to Open, Easy to CloseSimply put, convenience in packaging starts with a package that is easy to open as well as easy to close. However, the architecture behind the open/close element of convenience can be complex. In designing or selecting an effective easy-open/easy-close system for flexible packaging, a brand manager must take into account a mix of target age groups and demographics as well as technologies available to provide intuitive and effective solutions.
For example: recently developed slider zipper technology incorporates an ergonomically designed slider clip enabling consumers to easily open and close a package. In this way, a brand manager can control how consumers interact with the product on a daily basis. What may be even more important is the fact that the slider looks easy-to-open and easy-to-close. Consumers know immediately how it works simply by looking at the package and require little, if any, instructions on how to operate it. This visual clue is vital, as packaging convenience is defined by how consumers use the package.
Of course, the easy-open/easy-close dynamic must also balance with safety concerns. Many convenience features also provide tamper evidence. The safety feature should also be immediately intuitive and easy to use. For example, a perforated tab above a zipper gives a visual clue that the package will be easy to access yet tamper evident. Consumers get the right balance of security and ease of use in a simple format.
Take It on the RunThe ability to open and reseal a package is a vital element in defining convenience in flexible packaging, but there are many additional components. Consumers use and consume products on the go and look at many products they buy as accessories to their everyday lives. Therefore, convenience in flexible packaging must address how well a product integrates into the lives of its consumers.
The requirement for resealable packaging is demonstrated by looking at how consumers fill in “convenience gaps” with their own solutions. Various clips, either improvised (clothes pins, paper clips) or products themselves (the “chip clip”), fill this gap for consumers. While this may seem a minor point, it actually represents huge missed opportunities for brands working to build a closer relationship with consumers.
Without a resealable closure, product freshness can be compromised. The addition of any number of zipper technologies would not only be easier for a consumer - it would also preserve freshness for a longer period of time. Whether it’s a food or health and beauty product, freshness is important from the point a consumer buys a product through to the final serving.
Products without a resealable feature run the risk of degrading the consumer’s relationship with the product as they use it. Without a slider or a press-to-close zipper, which would help them store and transport the products, consumers revert to storage bags and throw away the original package. Years of branding, marketing, advertising, and design end up being thrown away or consigned to the recycling bin.
Packaging lacking a resealable feature can limit product consumption to the home. If a consumer travels, they can either transfer the product to another unbranded container or use existing packaging. From soup and beverages to health and beauty aids, products are redefined in the marketplace simply by how they are used by consumers on the go. Without a resealable feature, a brand misses that opportunity.
Filling the ‘convenience gap’ has been a major priority for packaging suppliers. Recently, Zip-Pak introduced the first packaging format to feature resealable slider technology built into the “fin seal” of an overwrap-style package. The package has an easy-open strip above the slider for initial bag opening in one step without the need for scissors or knives. Peel-seal technology is incorporated below the slider. It is not only easily opened and closed, but acts as a hermetic barrier to extend product shelf life, and provides consumers with the security of a tamper-evident seal. In other words, it contains all the elements needed to create consumer goodwill through convenience.
Convenience is a Green IssueConsumers are increasingly making decisions that will reduce waste, and part of that initiative is making purchases that reduce packaging material waste. Resealable packaging eliminates the transfer of products into a separate container, allowing for use and storage in original packaging. Integrated with flexible packaging, a resealable feature offers consumers the choice of buying larger packages that keep larger portions of food fresh, leading to fewer packages purchased and less packaging used.
Resealable packaging can also be leveraged in overall sustainable packaging strategies, by reducing the volume of packaging material used as well as creating energy savings by eliminating the need for washing separate containers for storage and transport. Further, resealable features integrated into flexible packaging leverage the benefits of reduced shipping weight and space, which can lead to fewer shipments and therefore lessen greenhouse gas emissions.
After performing an independent focus group survey that explored consumer preference for slider zippers, Zip-Pak found that five out of nine respondents would re-use a good resealable bag, defined as one with a thicker gauge bag material and a resealable closure. However, re-use was dependent on what product was packaged in the pouch in the first place: meat or cheese bags would not be re-used while dried goods such as cookies would.
As retailers require more sustainable packaging strategies and consumers base more buying decisions with the environment in mind, packaging can become an important part of a brand’s marketing strategy in the years to come.
Resealable Adds a BooostConsumers value time, ease of food preparation, freshness, portability, and sustainability - and they are willing to pay more for these elements. Resealable packaging offers a boost to virtually any product and does not necessarily result in cost increases, since system adjustments can reduce overall packaging costs. Scoring high marks for consumer convenience, enhanced shelf life and great shelf appeal, as well as for product protection, these packages demonstrate the true versatility and attraction of flexible materials.
Understanding how consumers view convenience and looking at the total benefits for consumers can help brands develop flexible packaging that integrates well into consumers’ lives.