If you want to win over shoppers, get rid of fancy and quirky packaging and go back to the basics, says Gillian Wight

Another day, another headline-grabbing statement about the economy. You would think by now we would have all come to terms with being in recession. And the more savvy among us will have realised we should be cutting back.

While this will prove to be something of a challenge for many, spare a thought for the brains behind the retail industry who also have tighter budgets to work to but still need to keep little old us happy.

Take packaging for example. During the early noughties, when our economy was booming, a product was all about its packaging. The fancier, crazier and quirkier, the better. The importance of new formats, materials and finishes overtook the fundamental role of packaging: to protect, preserve and promote the product. Now, gradually, the emphasis is reverting back to focusing on what’s on the inside. Thankfully, it doesn’t take a genius to work out how to set about achieving this.

With the credit crunch in mind, there is not a great deal of available cash to splash, so utilising existing, ‘back-to-basics’-style solutions in new applications is one way brands can change their packaging without having to create a whole new concept. This can not only reduce financial outlay, but also lessen the environmental impact.

Asda is just one retailer that has applied this concept to its packaging, with positive results. Traditionally, its ready meals were packaged in a tray and sleeve format. But taking on board the need for product visibility and environmental concerns, it has changed the packaging to a clear plastic pouch more at home on the chilled soup shelves. 

Herb and spice company Fiddes Payne has taken a similar path with its vanilla pods vacuum-packed in cigar cases, while Morrisons’ garden peas now come in glass jars. Both are examples of age-old packaging renovated for a new application.

In previous years, the UK prided itself on being a flag bearer for packaging innovation. Now there is a need to retain creativity but cut cost. Which is why renovating innovation is the key to competitive edge.n

Gillian Wight is packaging development director of Your Packaging Partner