Presenting at a trade event gets the creative juices flowing. Sometimes this can be a good thing. Sometimes it leads to other ideas.

This is what happened this week. I was invited to present a short deck at Pro2Pac at London’s Excel. Appended to the annual IFE show, Pro2pac is a mash-up of machine and packaging manufacturers alongside smaller brands of, sometimes, niche and regional food products. It brings together a compelling mix of people and ideas.

Agenda

My agenda time slot was titled ‘identifying and addressing consumer needs through intelligent design’.

My abstract read like this: Trends across consumer behaviour strongly signal that plastic packaging has lost its place in the hearts and minds of shoppers.

As Generation Z becomes more of a force in the buying community, companies grown and built on the belief that plastics present the best way of shipping CPGs and Produce, over long distance and in the extended supply chain, are being challenged.

How do we break the cycle that causes consumer frustration at the apparent apathy demonstrated by the packaging industry and its perceived lack of preparedness to accept responsibility for the change that is, in some peoples’ eyes, inevitable?

Already I can feel hackles rising amongst plastic packaging producers. So here’s my point: whatever output and efficiency targets incumbent producers need to hit to make money, how ever much the packaging industry tells us that we need plastic nets around oranges or seven-element packaging to make a pot of soup look premium, or a bag around bananas, or plastic wraps around trays of mushrooms… consumers know they don’t. Retailers may prefer pre-packaged goods to make the supply chain more efficient and to manage, their definition of, food waste within the system that the packaging industry and they have created – but consumers don’t NEED it.

With this single, unavoidable ‘black elephant*’ the packaging industry is losing the hearts and minds of consumers.

During my presentation, I referenced the work that is being done in class rooms with Key Stage 1 to 3 students in schools right now. Educating children about the impact of avoidable plastic usage and even more serious environmental concepts is having an effect.

Generation Z

Generation Z has received this information and the recent Greta Thunberg inspired schools strikes are an illustration of a change in the wind; new consumers beginning to make their feelings felt.

Not to put too fine a point on it, there’s a sentiment building.

With industry so hung-up on Millennials as the largest shopping age group, it’s no surprise that subsequent segments aren’t front of mind. For reasons of sustainability, yours and everyone else’s, Gen. Z should be. Do you even know what age Gen.Z is?

My presentation at #Pro2pac was along these lines. As an identified trend, age-specific shifts in attitudes towards consumerism is as clear as day. It’s signalled and is being shouted from all segments of your consumer audience. Resist all you like but if you don’t adapt and change, your business will feel it.

I’ve drawn a quick infographic that sums up this concept and you can get it here. It’s called ‘Who will you sell your packaging to?’ Have a look. I’m interested to talk to you if you agree with this sentiment. I’m more interested to speak to you if you don’t.

To talk about how we can help you re-envisage your product design strategy, we’re a call away and this link will drop time into my diary. Let’s talk soon.

*The Black Elephant is combination of boardroom clichés: the Elephant in the Room, the thing which everyone knows is important, but no one will talk about; and the Black Swan, the hard-to-predict event which is outside the realm of normal expectations, but has enormous impact.

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