In my time at Rohrer, I’ve built relationships with many consumer brands. Their products range from household items to auto after-market, office supplies, or fishing lures… Basically, if you can imagine something in a package, I work with them. This means I hear all kinds of unique challenges and needs, and it’s rare for me to make any sweeping generalizations.
But there is one thing that continues to grow with all of these brands – a desire to reduce plastic packaging and a shift to carton packages. This probably isn’t a surprise. Packaging sustainability has been an initiative for brands for many years. What’s changing is the degree to which brands are taking action.
Across all industries, the change has been happening faster than before. I’m thinking about two brands who have initiated projects with me in the past few months. I’ll call them HealthCo (an over-the-counter healthcare brand), and ToyCo (a toy manufacturer).
The owner/inventor at HealthCo is eliminating all plastic in their packaging, which includes face seal blisters and clamshell packaging. He told me that they’re shutting down a 25-station carousel for heat-sealing, and moving 100% of their packaging to cartons. ToyCo has been using clamshell packaging for years. Now, the director of procurement is starting to look at fluted cartons – 24 pt. or 18 pt., depending on what’s going in it.
Why? It’s More Than “Budget”
We have years of history producing clamshell packaging for both HealthCo and ToyCo. These changes aren’t based on a whim. When the decision-makers from any of my customers ask my Rohrer team to explore new package options for their brand, they might be addressing any number of challenges, not just price.
To be sure, some of my partners are interested in cost reductions. As a rule, the start-up costs for clamshell tooling is pricier than the tooling die and plates for dedicated carton packaging, even with a variety of finishes added to the carton. If a customer’s carton project fits into one of Rohrer’s ezCombo® programs, the production is extremely cost-effective. (And ezCombo® doesn’t mean limited – partners still have access to multiple card stocks, cold foil and Process +™ color management).
So what are some of the other considerations?
- Simplicity: When I visited ToyCo, I saw all of their different packaging components for each package and SKU. They had a broad supply chain, and I knew I could help. Working with my design team, we developed a new package option that provided ToyCo with a one-stop-shop for their packaging needs.
- Flexibility and Speed-to-Market: One of the reasons HealthCo is making a switch is to simplify and expedite their go-to-market strategies. With cartons, switching artwork and packaging design are simpler and less risky because the associated costs are lower. HealthCo can move just as quickly in their pack-out with auto-bottom cartons, and their new cartons are cost-effective solutions for new marketing messages.
- Sustainability: In many cases, the customer asks for help making the change. It’s no secret that corporations want to improve their stewardship of the environment. Rohrer uses PVC or rPET for most of our plastic packaging, and most of this packaging – if not 100% recyclable, is very close to it. But for brands to satisfy consumers, the idea of getting away from plastic makes people feel like their package has a “greener” look.
When to Choose Cartons
One of the first questions I ask a new partner is how they’re doing their pack-out. Both clamshell packages and cartons are usually filled manually. An auto-bottom carton pops open and is easy to close and send down the line. In a side-by-side comparison of manually filled packages, an auto-bottom carton can be faster than a pinch-tab clamshell.
The start-up costs associated with cartons are much lower than a traditional clamshell packaging project. For some of my partners, this means they can reduce their packaging budget. However, more often, I see my partners shifting the initial savings into specialty printing processes like soft-touch coatings and foil. Partners who need a large variety of packaging sizes for their product SKU’s do best with cartons as well.
Consumers perceive cartons as a green solution. Making a change to product packaging may help improve both the actual impact on the environment as well as the perceived impact. Meaning, a brand can reduce raw materials or incorporate new, recycled substrates, but consumers also make assumptions about a brand based on their packaging materials. Even though most plastic is recyclable, when your brand wants to demonstrate your commitment to the environment, moving to a paperboard carton sends the message to your consumers.
What about Product Visibility?
Clamshell packaging is a clear winner for providing product visibility. (Pardon the pun.) Consumers can pick up a product in a clamshell package and get a full 360° view of your item. Brands can enclose an insert card to highlight the unique selling points of their products.
On a carton, window film is a really popular way of creating a sight-line for your products. Window film also provides some product security. We also work with customers by designing a package with internal partitions. These internal partitions can help keep products in place. They can be built into the flaps of the carton or as a secondary insert.
ToyCo uses partitions in their packaging. The structure allows them to skip window film entirely. A little bit of innovation and a very good design team helps us make a better package!
Clamshells Provide Exclusive Benefits
I definitely still recommend clamshell packaging for certain products. First of all, if security is a big concern, clamshell packaging is the superior choice. Clamshell packaging helps prevent theft. When brands use RF sealing for their clamshell packaging, users need a knife or scissors to get into the package, deterring theft.
Secondly, if the product is very heavy, and especially if it’s heavy and will be hanging, the clamshell is a better option. Hanging a heavy product in a carton can cause the carton to fail. A fluted carton can provide a lot of rigidity, but it might not provide the strength to hold a very heavy product. If you have a four-pound product and you want the versatility of on-shelf or peg displays, you will not go wrong with clamshell packaging.
I remind my customers: Don’t discount the green benefits of clamshell packaging. We offer a variety of recycled materials and recyclable materials for your clamshell packaging.
I’ve been working on a few projects with Rohrer’s design team. We’re testing printed 20 pt. SBS on F-flute. The newest carton can handle a lot more weight. We’re performing successful tests of printing, mounting, die-cuts, and gluing. These super-sturdy boxes are not only strong, but they’re beautiful. Rohrer can provide all the same high-end printing techniques, helping demonstrate value and premium quality.
What’s the Next Step?
Rohrer believes that true partners make the perfect package. Whether I am working with an existing partner like HealthCo and ToyCo or a new customer, I dig deeper into the packaging goals. I make sure I understand more than just the previous packaging choices or the budget. I want to understand the product and how brands want to go to market.
Since Rohrer provides packaging design services, I ask how our designers can be involved very early in a packaging project. Rohrer has manufacturing experience with so many different packaging styles, we’re a one-stop-shop. I know we can provide innovative solutions for any of our partners.
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