March 6th, 2017

Don’t Follow Trends in the Converting Industry — Create Them

Trends set our strategic compass. But are trends in the converting industry really something you want to follow, or should you actually be the one creating the trend?  Denise Greenwell of Berry Plastics provided us with some unique insights on why trends aren’t what you think, and how you can create your own trend from the get-go.

Greenwell presented at the 2016 PACK EXPO in Chicago on global packaging trends.  We reached out to her to learn about what’s affecting manufacturers and converters, particularly in the medical device and pharmaceutical sectors.

When we asked her about the top trends, her response was not what we expected.  

Where Do Trends Come From?

Denise Greenwell is the Brand Marketing Director for Berry Plastics, a global company providing innovative packaging and protection solutions in a wide-range of sectors.  Her team’s role is to understand how consumers approach the market.

Denise Greenwell

Denise Greenwell

Her first comment about trends was a question: “Do you know where trends come from?”

That’s a question many people probably aren’t able to answer. But when you look deeper into the mystique about trends and where they come from, you discover how to transform your organization from being a follower to a leader.

Denise Greenwell on what the future holds for packaging.


Trends Don’t Magically Appear

It seems that trends don’t just magically appear. They’re discovered, or perhaps more accurately, cultivated.

“Trends are intrinsic to insights, and insights come to us from knowing customers better than they know themselves,” Denise said.

Trends come from insights.

Consider the coffee industry, she explained.  People thought packaged coffee for home brewing was dying off.  But then customers were observed in how they used the product, and what could be done to make it better.

It turned out customization was sorely lacking, so Keurig came along with individual packets.  They solved a customer problem, which naturally went gangbusters.  And there you have the creation of a trend.

5 Global Trends – and How You Can React to Them

Greenwell believes that too often companies conduct market research that looks at trends and what other companies are doing to meet the trends, instead of really getting to the “heart of the matter.”

We’ll touch on that in a bit, but in terms of overall trends of consumers in regards to packaging — and really, in terms of consumer products and general — Greenwell gave us five distinct breakouts.

1. Be Good

People today are taking better care of themselves – they want to “be good” to the themselves. Lifestyles have changed, people are eating healthier foods, and there is a great emphasis on health care.  The packaging industry needs to facilitate the “be good.”

For example, food packaging needs to continue to innovate new ways for improving barrier properties on packaging and improving shelf-life and freshness.

2. Feel Good

As much as we want to “be good” in terms of our healthy and our bodies, we also want to feel good.  “While we want to be healthy and take care of ourselves, we also have an indulgent side,” Greenwell said.

She points out smaller packaging for sweet items like ice cream — helping consumers feel good without sacrificing their healthy living lifestyle.  

3. Do Good

Consumers also want to take care of their home and planet.  It’s part of the whole farm-to-table trend — consumers want to know from where things are sourced.  Packaging can help explain the supply chain.  

Understanding the sourcing in the healthcare industry is a bit more challenging, but it’s becoming increasingly more important as regulatory issues make traceability critical.

Beyond these “good” trends, Greenwell noted a few additional macro-trends:

4. Personalization

Consumers want their brands to understand who they are and deliver customized products.  The more brands discuss how to personalize products — such as through the use of digital printing — the greater the hold on their customers.

5. Aging Population

The aging population is an underserved market.

There’s much conversation about the Millennial generation, but Greenwell thinks we’re overlooking a more immediate need: the aging population. This is a huge chunk of the population that has financial resources.  Greenwell believes it’s an “underserved market.”

The Takeaway: What Can You Do as a Manufacturer?

During the Q&A section of Greenwell’s presentation at PACK EXPO, a college student said, “I thought you were going to tell us what’s going to happen in the next few years.”

That leads us back to trends.  We can talk about the be good, feel good, do good trends that are taking place on a global level. We can emphasize the need for personalization and the underserved markets, like baby boomers.

But these are broad strokes that will only get you so far. Greenwell feels what you truly need to do is understand your end user.  You can find those insights are specific to your target market, and innovate the solution that solves their problems.

“You can set the pace and stay out ahead, instead of trying to catch up to the guy with the great idea,” she said.

Find out how to overcome your biggest converting and packaging challenges.

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