Packaging is a key enabler for new product development as well as product revitalization.

Packaging is a key enabler for new product development as well as product revitalization. All the major consumer trends can take advantage of packaging in so many ways - tangible or intangible. That’s why companies need to step up their packaging innovation in order to grow in the future. Here are some key consumer trends tied in with some packaging innovation opportunities.

Windows in packaging and zippers on packaging (such as those on shredded cheese) say fresh, but the current zipper is getting old. There is a need to do technology scouting to find out what new innovations are out there to help improve taste and freshness. Think about other sensory improvements like sound, touch and aroma, all underutilized as a packaging opportunity.

Easy open and reclose fixtures - from beverages to dry products - make products more portable, allow on-the-go usage and make a consumer’s life easier, both tangibly and intangibly. Have you looked at the new stand-up pouches that are microwavable and convert to bowls?

The 100-calorie packs and beverages have grown in significance over the years. Enhanced packaging information and two-dimensional codes will make a big difference in the future and allow consumers to get more nutritional information about dairy products - a new and great opportunity.

This is a misunderstood term that too many knowledgeable people confuse with low cost only. Value is really about benefits and cost versus competition. The dairy industry can offer increased value and benefits in many ways. Think about slider zippers on shredded cheese or beverages that enhance the on-the-go lifestyle.

Consider design and all the new package formats that might make sense for dairy products. We need some fresh external thinking in this area.

Miller-Coors did a great job with thermochromic inks on cans and blue-lined cans to call out cold and refreshing. Sales grew about 6-7% in a flat market. Where is this for dairy? What about color coding for saving temperature for cheese, etc.?

This can be tied with convenience, ease of preparation, use, clean-up and disposal. The more you bundle packaging innovations together, the stronger the ownership and the equity you have.

Everyone needs to look at packaging end-of-life in the early design phase. Look at how you can improve recycling, upcycling, re-use, etc. And look at sustainability from an investment viewpoint, not just an efficiency or cost-savings viewpoint. Consider the new Sun-Chips compostable package from Frito Lay as an important advancement and opportunity for dairy.

Whether local or global, safety and security is a big deal for packaging. Consider intelligent packaging, overt and covert packaging labels/components, improved traceability and more. This effort should be a part of every packaging program. Just look at all the packaging-related recalls we have seen in the last few years.

Quality used to be assumed by consumers, but with all the recalls, items like inconsistent quality materials and opening/reclose features, poorly squared cartons and the like leave consumers wondering about tampering. It is obvious there is an opportunity for companies to step up packaging quality and even use it as a differentiator.

Since the big recession, consumers have become more resourceful. They like sales and they buy more private label/private brands. What a great example of how packaging can enable product growth. Look at how you can use packaging to convey this important new attribute.

Delivering all these benefits through packaging just doesn’t happen overnight. Companies need strong packaging leaders, clear visions, strategies and programs. They need to develop and implement open innovation programs (look outside the four walls for new solutions), tap external resources and use them to bring new insights and technologies.

Is there more knowledge inside your company or outside your company? How you answer this question will tell you learn whether you are a leader or a follower. Do you want to grow or remain stagnate? The choice is yours.