Packaging and Plastic Containers Promote Sales

In the 1890s many new home products were introduced to help maintain the household. These included baking soda and other cooking powders and liquids as well as cleaners. In the unregulated era of packaging, many mistakes were made that caused fatalities in the family.

Plastic packaging According to Dr. Susannah Lipscomb, who hosts a British show on Dangerous Victorian Homes, “Chemical cleaning products to eradicate dirt and disease were heavily advertised and highly effective, but their toxic ingredients, like carbolic acid, were contained in bottles and packages that were indistinguishable from other household products.” Boxes of caustic soda and baking powder were easily mixed up in identical bottles and boxes.  “In September 1888, the Aberdeen Evening Express reported that thirteen people had been poisoned by carbolic acid in one incident – five died”.[1]  Only in 1902 did the Pharmacy Act make it illegal for bottles of dangerous chemicals to be similar in shape to ordinary liquids.”[2]

The lack of labeling standards and just a few types of bottles, was the start of the consumer packing industry, and apparently manufacturers thought little explanation was necessary. How times have changed!

Today we have expectations about what pill bottles look like and many other various products as well. But the enormous diversity of container designs is primarily driven by selling product and supporting a particular brand. But while consumers don’t realize it, product manufacturers are also very aware of safety, freshness, product compatibility and shipping weight.

As manufacturers realized that name brands and signs and eventually logos were critical for customers to find the product again at the store, they also eventually realized that labeling and packaging could actually increase the likelihood of selling the product.

One study indicates that packaging increased the salability of products. In a MeadWestvaco study, “64 % of those [consumers] surveyed indicated they purchased a new product because the packaging caught their eye. And 42 % said they used products more regularly because of packaging, 36 % — more than one of every three people surveyed — said they changed brands from a product they previously used because of new packaging.”[3]

Consumer reported actions due to packaging

Consumer action graph

Retailers have long known that presentation is important to assist buying. Visually stimulating packaging can draw attention to a product that is surrounded by similar products on the shelf. Consumers can immediately recall a mental image of a Campbell’s soup can or a standard blow-molded milk jug. This allows the eye to find and identify products that are recognized and enjoyed by the consumer.

This means that new product or existing ones with little recognition have to do battle with the eye and mind of the consumer. Of course, this not the only factor in a decision, but it is clear that the consumer must at least look at the product to consider it. One classic case is of “Screaming Yellow Zonkers,” a popcorn brand. As a new brand, competing with all the other packages was the primary way to get noticed. Screaming Yellow Zonkers put bright yellow popcorn images on a shiny black package, breaking all the packaging “rules.” It was an immediate success, just because of the package, even though it was “just popcorn.”

This is the task of the brand manager and product design team.  The different factors boil down to just a few; brand logo visibility/recognition, container shape and color (or clarity), and label design.

However, the options for these three factors can be numerous, so they can get complex rapidly. Container shape has a perception already for consumers. Low, wide-mouth, squat jars tend to say cosmetics, or food items such as artichokes, salsa, or other chip dips. Taller blown plastic bottles typically contain beverages or cleaning fluid. Each come in an endless variety of shapes. In each case the product designer is attempting to differentiate their product on the shelf, while enhancing the product and brand.

Creativity counts. If a standard bottle must be used because the volume needed is low, then extra pressure is put on the designer to represent the product and stand out with the label. But many products need to have a completely different shape and label design to differentiate it from all the others.

When new and exclusive shapes are desired, the custom plastic molders get involved to assist with tooling used to make the plastic item. This assures unique shape and size, while allowing specific features to be built into the plastic resin. Rigid plastic looks and acts different from flexible resin that can be squeezed to push out product.

Produce in plastic Other factors are important to total product functionality too: sanitation, barrier characteristics, breakage, spilling, maintaining product integrity. There is room for improvement here. Basic packaging function – protecting, storing and dispensing, and not meeting the customer expectations.

In the MeadWesvaco Study, “In terms of what matters most, consumers want packaging that protects from breaking or spilling (74%), maintains product integrity (72 %) and gets the entire product out of the package (66 %).”[4]  Study spokesman, Richard Kazanjian, says “We believe packaging is more than a container, that it is the physical manifestation of a brand promise.”

Selecting and designing proper manufacturing plastic containers is important. Customers in the study say packaging drives 37% of purchases vs, 27 % for TV, 31 % online and 31 % personal recommendation. If this study is right, the package is the single most important factor of a product.

Microdyne has been making bottles, jugs, and containers of all types and sizes for decades. We can help you manufacture that unique container your product needs to really scream off the shelf!

Let us know about the project you have in mind. Use the general quote form here.

[1] Dr. Susannah Lipscomb, Dangerous Victoria Homes BBC series, Http://

[2] Ibid.

[3]   MeadWestvaco tracks consumer attitudes about packaging

[4] Ibid.

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