Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Price is the major criterion manufacturers compete on today — particularly as private labels increase their market share. 

But one way to get off the “price squeeze hamster wheel” is through innovation. And it’s through innovation in packaging that a handful of companies in Australia is giving themselves an edge.

How? By addressing the increasing concern over “pack rage” — the anger consumers feel when they can’t open packaging.

“Accessible” packaging is giving these manufacturers the opportunity to escape from price-dominated competition, opening up new markets and helping them retain existing ones in tight competition.

One of the latest tools guiding accessible-packaging development is the Initial Scientific Review (ISR), a report that assesses products and allows organisations to compare suppliers using an “Accessibility Benchmarking Scale”.

Fergal Barry is the strategic partnerships manager with Arthritis Australia, one of the organisations behind the ISR. The others are Nestlé, NSW Health and Georgia Tech (one of the world’s leading public research universities focusing on improving the human condition).

Mr Barry says the ISR combines three aspects to form the benchmarking score: the populations impacted, the requirement for a tool, and task criticality.

“The +8 to -8 rating gives a standard method to compare products’ ease of opening and legibility, so an organisation can compare two competing brands of a similar product, or a manufacturer can compare two design solutions for a product.”

Matthew McAlpin heads up Eatwell Foods, a specialist manufacturer of Gumnut Country Bakehouse portion-control biscuits for the foodservice and healthcare industries.

Eatwell implemented pack changes after an ISR assessment.

Mr McAlpin says the changes have seen Gumnut biscuits retain market share in NSW health-care organisations and increase with other health authorities.

“I didn’t necessarily expect to see either of those, so the changes have definitely been worth doing. Because we did the job on the biscuits, HealthShare NSW approached us to sort out another type of food packaging, which allowed us to enter a new market.”

Zdenka Fuller, who manages packaging, supply and purchasing in food and hotel services for HeathShare NSW, says the ISR provides the organisation with an objective method of differentiating between similar products in regards to packaging accessibility. 

Gavin Williams, CEO of the Australian Packaging Council, says, “Easy-to-open packaging is a major issue for companies, and those that don’t address it in a serious way are likely to suffer commercial consequences.”

His comments are backed up by results from a 2011 US online survey, which showed that nearly one in two consumers had switched at least one brand because of packaging accessibility.

They’re figures that speech pathologist Wendy Favorito understands completely.

Favorito, 43, was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at age six. “For instance, opening a water bottle on an aeroplane means either cracking it with my teeth — not good! — or asking the person next to me, which can be embarrassing if they think I’m just being a princess about it.”

Aside from the physical danger of opening packaging with knives or teeth, there’s the issue of malnutrition when the elderly and frail can’t open packaging.

Matthew McAlpin says, “You can have the best product, but if you can’t open it, it is no good. Malnutrition is as big as waste in health care. Pack unopenability is a big problem and it’s starting to be addressed, which is great.” 

Favorito, who is also the consumer representative for Arthritis Australia, says, “Struggling to open packaging is the one thing that could actually make me feel disabled. Packaging changes such as to Gumnut biscuits are a very solid step in the right direction. It’s as simple as before I couldn’t open them, and now I can.”

Fergal Barry says, “Gumnut is a small company that has given itself an enormous commercial advantage — for minimal cost. The pack dimensions are the same and the changes needed in manufacturing were low cost, yet resulted in significant differences to the usability of the end product.

“The opportunity for competitive advantage is very strong with the ISR tool.”

For more information about ISR and how it can give your manufacturing business a competitive edge, contact Arthritis Australia on (02) 9518 4441. 

Contact Profile

Fergal Barry, Strategic Partnerships Manager

P: 02 9518 4441
M: 0401 358 673


packaging rage, pack rage, wrap rage, easy to open packaging, packaging accessibility, accessible packaging, packaging innovation, Eatwell Foods, Australian Packaging Council, HealthShare NSW, Gumnut Country Bakehouse, Arthritis Australia



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