Functional packaging could be the key differentiator for manufacturers of household goods facing a mature and saturated marketplace. Arjun Ramachandran writes for Packaging.
Snaring the attention of customers seeking disinfectants, detergents, soaps and toothpastes is a challenging task in an industry sector that features a number of established major players and little scope for technological product innovation.
In this climate something as simple as an easy-to-use spout on a bottle of cleaning agent could be the crucial difference to a consumer pondering the many brand options in supermarket aisles.
“The two key trends driving household goods packaging are value for money and convenience,” Visy marketing manager Teresa Aprile said.
“As it’s a highly fragmented marketplace, there are many brands, so the focus on value for money means achieving low cost packaging.”
Despite the imperative for reduced cost packaging, Aprile says the push for convenience presents an opportunity for brand owners to command a premium by introducing functional improvements in the design of household goods packaging.
A prime example, she says, is the drainback spout found on some leading brands of detergent.
“It’s a unique feature which is integrally moulded into the container,” she said.
“It offers consumers a drip free, easy pour solution.”
According to Amcor Australasia group general manager (sales & marketing strategy) John Mansour, the trend towards convenient packaging merely reflects similar developments in convenience in the household goods themselves.
“Consumers are increasingly time-poor due to longer working hours and hectic lifestyles and seek solutions that create time,” Mansour said.
“In terms of household goods this translates to products requiring minimal application and offering greater efficiency.
“Examples include 3-in-1 products, tablet-style laundry and dishwashing detergents, decorative and concentrated spray/aerosol air fresheners, rim liquid toilet care products and single-use insecticides.”
A feature of many consumer household goods is the requirement for accurate dosages. Laundry detergent is a prime example where this is necessary.
Visy’s Teresa Aprile says consumers increasingly expect packaging to assist them with this, resulting in the incorporation of components such as the self-measuring cap.
In addition the concentrated chemical contents of many household goods means closure and dispensing functions are potentially even more important than for many other goods.
“The key requirement in this market is safety,” Aprile said.
“Customers want to make sure that harmful products in the household are child resistant.”
The incidence of child poisoning cases involving household goods has further raised the spotlight on the role of packaging in this sector, resulting in the development of various child-resistant features.
Typical examples include closures that require consumers to first squeeze and turn the cap to open a bottle, or caps that must be turned until they click into place twice for proper resealing.
Safety and durability are necessary characteristics not just for the cap on household goods, but for the packaging container as a whole.
As a result, packaging companies need to consider the manner in which household goods are handled and stored, and the packaging materials that are most appropriate.
“Household goods packaging remains a rigid plastics arena,” Visy’s Aprile said.
“Plastic is durable, dent resistant, water resistant and can be moulded into all shapes and sizes,” she said.
The chemical composition of many household goods products makes attributes of strength and durability in packaging particularly important in this sector.
The push from manufacturers of household goods for low-cost packaging does not mean all household goods packaging is without glamorous features.
“There are many household products that command a premium and the packaging needs to reflect this status whether it is an impressive trigger, premium label or an attractive design,” Aprile said.
“It is the packaging design that communicates that final message.”
According to IBISWorld, it’s people between the ages of 15 and 49 that tend to spend more on soap and detergent products than other members of the population, making modern and attractive household packaging even more important in snaring the attention of this younger market.
Developments in the nature of supermarket retailing are also bringing the need for attractive household goods packaging into sharper focus.
“Issues revolve around the dominance of the major retailers and their push for private label products, as manufacturers fight it out for shelf space,” Amcor’s Mansour said.
Visy’s Aprile says the closures and dispensers featured on popular detergent brands are a prime example of packaging innovation.
“The household consumer goods market has done a great job of developing custom closures that are unique to individual brands,” she said.
Materials are another area where manufacturers are seeking to command greater attention from consumers.
“While high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene remain two of the most common forms of packaging in this market, we are seeing a greater introduction of coloured Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) because of the high gloss and transparency properties it offers,” Aprile said.
As with other products, labelling also has a key role to play in the marketing of products. In-mould labelling is one particular method that is gaining prominence in the household goods sector.
“In-mould labelling produces a high-quality graphic and scuff resistant label, and eliminates the need for labeling at our customers’ premises” Aprile said.
While in-mould labelling does feature on products in a range of categories, it can be particularly important for labelling the toxic contents found in some household goods.
“In a wet environment it is very beneficial, especially for products that are harmful and need permanent labelling,” Aprile said.
As with most industries, household goods manufacturers have recently become more environmentally conscious. This is reflected in growth in the number of “green” products that are made using natural or other environmentally safe ingredients.
However, initiatives such as the National Packaging Covenant have also brought the role of packaging into sharper focus. As a result, there has also been emphasis on biodegradable and recyclable household packaging.
In particular the design of household goods packaging to encourage the use of refills is a significant example of environmentally-friendly packaging in this sector.
However, the dominant trend of convenience may still be a competing influence for manufacturers.
“Disposable household products have been gaining popularity, indicating consumers’ increased preference for throwaway packaging and convenience rather than recyclable goods,” Amcor’s Mansour said.