Packaging: More Than a Commodity

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It was hard to miss the mountains of products piled sky high that were vying for peoples’ attention, guiding me through the store like a maze. It could have been because it was early in the morning and the products hadn’t been thoroughly shopped yet, or maybe because the displays were simply meant to simplify the shopping experience. Whatever the reason was, the large piles of products made me feel something that I often hear in the packaging industry but generally disregard. It was in that particular setting and display that packaging appeared to me as a commodity. However, after spending time in the print industry, I know this thought couldn’t be further from the truth.

Simply put, commodities are viewed as the same across the marketplace. They can be purchased, sold and used without any variation in quality. For example: Assuming that the growing conditions are the same, I would not be able to tell the difference between pasta manufactured from durum wheat that was grown by two different farmers. The supplier of the commodity is of no consequence to the quality of the final product. These products could be exchanged at the point of manufacturing with no difference in quality to be seen or detected by the final consumer. That however is not the case when it comes to packaging.

After walking through the store solicited particular feelings, I can understand how some people would view packaging as a commodity. There are many vendors who offer the service, price can be shopped around and at the end of the day it ends up in the recycling. It is a necessary component to all consumer products but one that is frequently overlooked. Many times companies who purchase packaging think that no matter where they get the packaging from, they will receive the same product. When packaging is treated as a commodity, everything comes down to price. If Vendor A doesn’t meet a particular price point, and Vendor B will, all other considerations can be thrown out the door for the sake of pricing. The purchasing company’s thought is that the end consumer won’t be able to tell the difference between products printed by Vendor A vs. Vendor B. Within this mindset lies the problem with viewing packaging as a commodity.

From file preparation, color consistency, customer service, and functionality on filling lines, there are many variables that can separate packaging companies from each other. The belief that all packaging is the same often gets brand owners in trouble and scrambling to find solutions to problems they never anticipated at the point of purchasing. The quality, functionality and integrity of a carton is often overlooked by a “shockingly” low price. The emotional connection that end consumers have with products is most often found through packaging. It is how consumers identify their favorite products and choose them over competitors. Packaging is a brand billboard on the retail shelf, it is a reflection of how the consumer views the brand and the product alike. The first experience a consumer has with a product is the sight of the packaging followed by the interaction of removing the packaging to get to the product. These moments and experiences are priceless in creating long-term customers. When packaging is treated as a commodity the emotional connection with end consumers can be lost.

We manufacture paperboard packaging, commercial print and pressure sensitive labels. Together, these components help to provide protection, information and differentiation to not only the products inside but also to the consumers making the purchase. Even though we can understand how some people view the products in which we produce as a commodity and replaceable, we choose to look at it in a different light. We take the time to make sure that everything that leaves our door is beyond our customers expectations. That means the quality and look of the products passes the eye test, and the functionality of the cartons are ready to meet specific customer needs. We care about the products we make so that we can make a difference for our customers and the end consumer can see.

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Author: Nicole Hannover

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