THE packaging industry is starting to feel the pinch from major retailers imposing more stringent compliance on supply chain protocol, according to Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) vice president and Amcor Fibre Packaging national development manager George Ganzenmuller.
Speaking at a recent AIP function, Ganzenmuller highlighted the trend of major retailers to control their respective supply chains by imposing changes that are not necessarily ideal for the packaging industry and in some instances at a significant cost to suppliers.
“The drivers of the change in some cases have been recruited from success stories abroad where the retail environment is quite different from the Australian scene,” Ganzenmuller said.
“The major differences within Australia that impact on supply chains and packaging systems are the population density and particularly the tyranny of distance. As a result, the packaging industry is faced with the challenge of balancing price, performance and presentation in retail packaging.
However, says Ganzenmuller, consumers are driving the change based on the retailer’s perception of their needs which advertising cleverly manipulates.
“The thrust is to develop one touch modular retail packages where the last person to touch the product before the consumer is the grower.
Some major changes are about to be introduced at the point of sale for produce around Australia. This includes changes in store layouts and stacking space in the sales aisles to display open-top modular packs with empty units replaced as appropriate. However, says Ganzenmuller, the new modular packs do not fit neatly into the traditional 900 x 900mm stands and detract from the “silent salesperson” concept.
“With up to 20% waste in some produce lines, much has been done to improve packaging methods and systems,” he said.
The move to retail ready packaging, according to Ganzenmuller, will challenge packaging providers to maintain performance without increasing costs - even though the new black materials are a direct cost increase.
“Some industry analysts do not agree with some of these marketing ideas imported by the new decision makers in the retail hierarchy,” Ganzenmuller said.
“American experience with black packages to boost the look of fruit has been recommended as the preferred package - it is said that black better reflects the colour of the contents - but it has some down sides as well including heat absorption and recycling challenges.
“The black pigment will have an impact in the recycling process and potentially introduce piebald paper into the marketplace.”
However, Ganzenmuller was upbeat about the way in which the corrugated industry has adapted to change. He claimed that the modular packaging of six or 12 boxes on an Australian Standard Pallet is the leader in the new directions.
“One of the greatest issues facing the Australian produce market is the lack of a national collaborative body to handle produce packaging issues,” Ganzenmuller said.
“Until this gets addressed, Australian growers and packaging providers will not be able to strategically focus on the most cost effective and integrated approaches to produce packaging.”
Ganzenmuller sees a future where there will be minimal waste in produce and packaging, better identification systems, selective marketing, and new “paddock-to-plate” systems, such as hydro cooled unit packs.
“With generic black outer packs being mandated by retailers and the difficult in printing on black more brand ownership will come about by transferring graphics from outers to pre-packs,” he said.