DIA focuses in on packaging

dia2On April 17th, 2013 the DIA held a meeting entitled “The Packaging Market: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities.” The talk was extremely well attended, with registrants on the waiting list. The evening had an interesting format, beginning with a single speaker and ending with a panel discussion. The keynote was Suzie Stitzel, Solution Manager, Design Lifecycle Management at Esko. She was then joined by James Lee, Director, Technology and Innovation for Jones Packaging; Chris Murray, President Murray Prepress; and Mike Millard, Director of Prepress Services for the Ellis Group.

Stitzel began by discussing the challenges of producing a package. These include the complexity of working with 3D shapes, the large variety of substrates and inks, as well as the cost, time and regulatory pressures faced by the industry. She also shared some interesting statistics from a variety of studies. For example, did you know that about 1/3 of brand owners change their packaging at least once per year? This is actually driven by profitability. As consumers we like to see a fresh look with NEW written across the front. She also shared that the primary reasons for the change are cost reduction and product innovation.

In addition to these trends, Stitzel shared what she called the four crucial keys to speed. These are:

Protecting brand equity by which you ensure that the assets of the brand are appropriately managed.

Managing regulatory content such as nutrition labels and barcodes. There are definite changes and innovations in this area as we start to use systems of record (that you submit for Health Canada approval, for example) to dynamically drive the content of the package. This is a growing area, as 58% of errors found on packaging are related to copy editing mistakes.

Brand colour consistency ensuring that your brand looks the same across different printing methods and substrates.

Driving packaging innovation and managing the dichotomies of the need for change with costs, retailer demands, and sustainability.

Earlier in the evening Stitzel also shared with me some other interesting trends. In particular she has noticed that there has been an increase in the number of brand owners starting to hire their own packaging design and structure staff, bringing some of the work in-house. This is work that would typically be done by design agencies and prepress houses. The shift could be the result of increasing time to market and regulatory pressures. From an educator’s perspective I also think this trend is driven by increasingly software savvy graduates. We see more and more students coming into post-secondary education with design software skills. Thus is not so far fetched to imagine that your future marketer will also be an Illustrator user, for example.

Following these key points the panel session began. The panelists are all practitioners and were able to share some very good insights. They agreed that producing packaging is very complex and that the easiest way for offset printers to enter the market is through acquisition rather than startup. They identified that the next big trend in the packaging industry is digital printing. Mike Millard, talked about the fact that Ellis is searching for short run solutions; however they have not identified a technology that meets the very strict quality standards in packaging. They commonly agreed that cost, speed, ability to print spot colours and specialty finishes were are factors complicating the use of current digital technologies. Currently, digital has done well in labels. James Lee also identified that they are looking at active and intelligent packaging that provides more function (in areas of safety for example). When I asked the panel what types of packages consumers are asking for in small quantities they shared examples such as display kits, items with versioning or location specific content and high end items that retailers want to avoid stocking in inventory. Chris Murray also identified that there is a slow-movers category that also requires short runs for the same inventory reduction reasons.

Both the keynote and the panel offered some great insights into the world of packaging. The evening concluded with a draw for some golf related prizes to serve as a reminder to support DIA’s annual golf tournament happening on June 6th. If this is a topic you found interesting I would encourage you to check out Packex happening May 14-16th at the Toronto Congress Centre. This event will include many talks as well as a bustling trade show floor.

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