We all know what it’s like. You just can’t open the package, whether it’s cheese or ravioli. Sometimes you even need a tool, and sometimes you end up cutting your fingers on the sharp plastic edges. Why do manufacturers inflict this kind of thing on customers?
I reckon many manufacturers simply don’t know how to put barrier-free packaging into practice. Perhaps they’re worried about the costs that are involved in developing new packaging or in changing to a different package.
What kind of packaging presents the biggest problems to elderly people?
The biggest problems are packages with screw tops, food tins without opening devices and flat plastic trays – the kind that are often used for slices of cold meat and cheese.
Can manufacturers ignore demographic developments?
That’s a difficult question to answer. They probably need to adapt to demographic developments, or else they will lose out on revenue. After all, you can only sell your products well if you have satisfied customers. In the future there will be more and more customers who expect products and packages without stumbling blocks. Any manufacturer with more customer-friendly packaging is therefore ahead of the pack among the competition.
Is barrier-free packaging more expensive?
Not necessarily. Good packaging design can be achieved with a few simple means. Quite often barriers can be reduced by changing the display on the packaging, such as using a bigger font or clearer colours.
Does the packaging design suffer if it is barrier-free?
Not at all. I do believe that good packaging design is always barrier-free as well.
What does a perfectly barrier-free package look like? And what does it need to achieve?
What distinguishes good barrier-free packaging is a clear structure and a uniform design. All printed information must be nicely legible and easy to understand. Important details, such as allergy advice, must be highlighted, so that it can be found straightaway. And of course the packaging must be easy to open, with an opening principle that the customer can intuitively understand.
Are there any examples of good barrier-free packaging that meets the needs of both retailers and consumers?
Yes, the so-called FreshPack that is used for Leerdammer cheese. The package was given a Respectful Packaging award in 2014. It is resealable and easy to open. The opening edge is nicely visible and has red and green markings which perfectly communicate the two functions of opening and closing. Also, the tear tab is easy to get hold of, gives your fingers enough space and permits maximum transmission of force. And the packaging is very robust so that it doesn’t break or tear when you open it, and it can be re-sealed completely once it’s been opened.
Which group of packaging is the main focus of your research?
I focus particularly on packaging for food, cosmetics, washing powder and cleaning agents. But I also cover other products that are essential to everyday life. However, I don’t deal with packaging for pharmaceuticals. This category involves a range of further design requirements, as the packaging needs to be not only easy to open, but also child-proof. It’s another exciting area with lots of potential for a further interesting research project.