Peter McGeough explains why closures deserve the same recognition as other packaging components
The reason retailers and brands frequently launch product ranges in redesigned packaging is because the way a product is packaged has a huge effect on how well it caters to consumers, and, therefore, how well it will sell.
The challenge they face is that it is often difficult to predict the consumer response to new packs. There’s a tendency among shoppers to stick with what they know, so if they’ve always bought an item in a glass bottle and it suddenly appears in a plastic bag, it’s possible they will attempt to seek out a familiar bottle.
Despite this, we should remember that every item on the shelf was a new innovation at some stage – today’s popular packaging was once unfamiliar and was subsequently embraced by consumers.
The reason certain packs prove popular and others don’t can probably be linked to how well competing consumer demands are balanced.
Consumers want a closure to be functional, easy to open, secure, and to keep products in perfect condition. At the same time, environmentally conscious shoppers shun items they believe to be excessively packaged and want packs to be lightweight. On top of this, retailers must be very wary of overestimating how much of a premium consumers are willing to pay for an environmentally friendly product.
If a retailer is forced to choose between rolling out heavier packaging that better protects products but is less environmentally friendly, or creates lightweight packs that are better for the environment but don’t protect products very well, they’re compromising in areas they can’t afford to.
Fortunately, packaging isn’t an industry that stands still, meaning technological developments are increasingly allowing retailers to offer consumers true win-wins – such as packs that are not only more environmentally friendly but also easier to open and more secure.
One of the key reasons these win-wins are available to retailers is developments in closure technology.
In fact, the humble closure is so central to packaging developments that a major barrier to radical progress within the industry has been a reluctance to recognise that the whole pack design, container and closure, warrants equal consideration from the outset.
The use of a foil seal inside a cap to provide tamper evidence is one example of this, eliminating the need for a tamper band and allowing knurling around the neck to be removed.
Because these closures allow for a lighter cap and lower neck profile, blown containers can be reconstructed, with weight savings of between 25 and 40 per cent on a standard closure application. In yet another win-win, this cuts costs as well as reducing carbon emissions throughout the production chain.
These solutions also work with caps that improve ease of opening, including flip-lid designs that can be opened with just one hand.
Brands can now make use of a far greater range of closure shapes, which not only offers functionality benefits but can also create a distinctive container that attracts attention from shoppers and allows brands to differentiate their products.
The integration of the protective foil within the container neck also provides a barrier against counterfeiting, meaning complete consumer confidence, product safety and protection of brand credibility.
With all these benefits that advanced closure technology can offer, one might ask why caps and closures aren’t renowned as a driving force behind new and revolutionary packaging solutions.
First off, we should acknowledge that new closure solutions are indeed allowing major brands and retailers to make the transition to lightweight and creative packaging.
The reason this may not have happened to the extent one might expect – given the benefits closure technology can offer – can largely be attributed to the set up of our industry, with a new approach to design required before the most significant innovations can reach the market.
Rather than placing a generic screw top on to a pack at the very end of the design process, manufacturers need to begin with the closure, which will offer significantly greater freedom to the design team and improve product functionality.
Furthermore, many brand owners use separate manufacturers for containers and lids. What this means is that approaching a retailer with a complete design solution involves a long time spent outlining the technological differences with different product development and marketing teams to convince them of the benefits of moving away from traditional packaging.
Despite this, if a closure provider can tell a retailer they have developed a closure that is hygienic, secure and improves ease of opening – essentially, if they’re able to provide a clear business case for their product – then you can expect this to eventually overcome a retailer’s automatic preference for the more familiar solution.
Once this happens, provided the new solution lives up to its promise, the success of the new closure will be the best possible advert for it, and is likely to lead to widespread adoption by brands and retailers.
It’s fair to say that the benefits of starting the design process with the closure cannot be overlooked, which is why it’s no surprise that manufacturers and retailers are increasingly sitting up and taking notice.