Packaging development must take account of demographic conditions, age structures and a country’s culture. Photo: Clem Onojeghuo, pexels.com
How culture and climate can impact packaging
Whether it’s food or drugs, packaging plays a major role in the successful selling of products abroad. It’s an area where different cultures and customs must determine a company’s specific solutions just as much as climate zones, economic aspects and demographic considerations.
International best sellers: the six most important aspects
As one of the world’s most renowned packaging companies, Constantia Flexibles regularly conducts market studies and surveys among its international customers. The idea is to meet continually changing customer demands and, on this basis, work on the development of specific packaging solutions. According to recent studies, there are six main reasons for differences between national preferences, some of them quite big.
1. Geography: The geography of the target country and thus the distance from the production venue determine the shipping route and time. This makes it a priority to choose functional packaging material, as the merchandise must be protected from external influences, and the required minimum shelf life must be guaranteed. Local storage conditions, too, must be observed.
2. Regulations: One fundamental requirement is the observance of complex qualification procedures and official stipulations. Product details and warning notes can differ from one country to another, and safety standards for food are high everywhere.
Demands on packaging can differ depending on a country’s climatic conditions. Photo: rawpixel.com / pexels.com
3. Nature: Another major factor in choosing the packaging material is a country’s climate. A tropical climate, for instance, requires different barrier properties than a dry area. In addition to humidity and heat, differences in altitude must also be taken into account. For example, a crisps bag from the European lowlands can burst when it is shipped to somewhere over 2000 metres (6000 feet) above sea level, due to differences in air pressure.
4. Culture: When the product finally reaches the POS, it needs to meet customers’ preferences and stand out among competing merchandise. While customs usually change very slowly and not every customer trusts the unknown, trends are subject to continuous change. Identical colours and shapes can cause both positive and negative associations in different countries. The development of packaging must also look at demographic changes, such as age structures, urbanisation and rural exodus.
5. Economy: Whether packaging is suitable also depends on a country’s economic conditions: If people are short of time, then such a country has a major demand for single portions and handy bowls and bottles that can be used on the go. In working-class areas with low average wages bulk packaging is often not affordable for the individual. Also, any demand for environment-friendly and recyclable materials stands and falls with people’s level of prosperity.
6. Online shopping: The packaging market has changed enormously due to increasing web orders. Tangible products on supermarket shelves attract the customer’s attention through eye-catching features. In online shopping purchasing decisions are rarely based on the packaging, but tend to be made in response to advertising campaigns and discounts. So this is an area where the packaging is vital again. Once a product has been ordered, it is extremely important that it should be sent safely and that the customer experiences a wow effect when opening the parcel.
When a crisps bag is used, for instance, on a mountain hike, it needs to cope with altitudes of 2000 metres (6000 feet) and must be prevented from bursting under high air pressure. Photo: imagesthai.com Thailand Free Images, pexels.com
What’s the current trend?
Experts reckon that there has been an increasing trend towards flexible packaging for several years now. An international comparison shows that bags and portion packs are particularly popular in developing countries and threshold countries as well as in Russia and Asia. European customers, on the other hand, don’t want to do without rigid packaging – and so that good old tomato ketchup still tends to reach the dining table in a glass bottle. Adjusting original packaging to each country’s conditions and practices is usually a technical matter, requiring innovative machinery and bottling solutions.
Aside No. 1: Pharmaceutical industry in the States
Throughout the world the United States is known to be the only country whose pharmaceutical industry does not require the use of blister packs. Instead of a blister pack with aluminium foil backing, the patient is given tablets in a glass or plastic bottle. This is due to the way drugs are dispensed. North American doctors frequently prescribe specially customised quantities of drugs which are then hand-packaged by the pharmacist.
Aside No. 2: Food products from UK
Food and beverages from the UK are highly popular in other countries: This sector has apparently doubled its exports over the last ten years. In addition to the good reputation of such products, one major role is played by the packaging design. To meet each country’s customer preferences, a detailed preliminary analysis of national target groups was conducted. Product details are printed in the relevant national language next to the Made in Britain logo. To avoid problems at a later stage, companies often send samples to the relevant decision-makers, so that any changes can be made at an early stage.