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Everyone knows that packaging has the important functions of transporting products safely and attracting consumers. However, we are now becoming more aware of the possibilities of brand innovation through package design. In order for the packaging industry to reach the next levels of growth, sharing information and helping to guide the next generation of packaging professionals is critical.

Last month, an event took place that brought together the leaders in the industry and the upcoming leaders in the industry, all with the goal of shaping the future of packaging.

On May 2nd, nearly 300 packaging professionals converged at The Coca-Cola Company’s headquarters, in Atlanta, GA, to share their passion for packaging. The event was the fourth annual “NextPack: What’s Next in Packaging?” presented by the Institute of Packaging Professionals’ Southeastern Chapter. 

This year’s NextPack event included engaging speakers, inventive ideas from students, and a wide range of packaging materials and services being exhibited by the chapter’s corporate sponsors.

The diverse group of attendees was made up of designers, engineers, marketers and operators, from a variety of backgrounds. However, the group was unified in that they all see packaging from a slightly different perspective than most—not as a thing you throw away once you get the product home, but as a valuable part of the product itself–a part that has a lot of potential for growth!

Some enlightening insights and ideas came out of the conference from the panel of speakers:

When it comes to customer satisfaction, of course the quality of the product is the most important. But the brand and the packaging of a product are almost identically important to consumers (12% vs 10%). Last year companies in the US spent $150 Billion on advertising to leverage their brands; $500 billion globally. However, the equally important packaging is still treated as “part of goods sold”. The current objective is to reduce this cost every year to make it as close to zero as possible.  This reveals a huge disconnect that leaves major opportunity in the areas of growth and customer satisfaction.

Only 1 in 5 consumers is very satisfied by their packaging; 1 in 10 is frustrated; and only 20% of consumers are very satisfied with the role packaging plays.  We may be overly focused on aesthetics vs. functionality. With functionality, we have the greatest opportunities.
-Paul Spitale, Director of Global Marketing, MeadWestvaco

Have empathy for those that will use the packaging and products. Think about the products you love to use and how the design of it influences preference and appreciation.
– Bryce G. Rutter Ph.D., Founder & CEO of Metaphase Design Group

Visuals speak louder than words and to be memorable you need to be different. A word message will always be trumped by an image because it is easier for brains to connect with a picture than words alone.
-Laura Ries, President of Ries and Ries;   Author, “Visual Hammer”

Big ideas for the planet can be successfully turned into commercial realities, but a long-term perspective is needed. The movement towards a PlantBottle™ package had to include recycling in the current infrastructure and it could not disturb the recycling efforts of typical plastic bottles.
-Scott A. Vitters, General Manager, PlantBottle™ Packaging Platform, The Coca-Cola Company

As witnessed in previous years, the highlight of the NextPack event is always the 48 Hour Re-Pack Student Competition. Entries were received from students in design or packaging related programs at recognized colleges and universities. Twenty-two schools participated, 230 students registered and 39 teams submitted final designs.

Top packaging and design professionals from Kraft Foods, Walmart Stores and Home Depot judged their work in the following categories:

•Bar Soap
•Men’s Shirts

 “The 48 Hour Re-Pack Competition is a great way to showcase future packaging professionals. This competition will challenge designers to blend function and form, sustainability and material optimization all in a short time frame with a hard deadline.”
-Chet Rutledge, Director, Private Brand Packaging, Walmart

Once the top 10 finalists were revealed, the top three winners presented their design concepts on the main stage. The student team from Clemson University took 1st place, winning $3000 in scholarship funds for an idea to improve the packaging of dress shirts.  The team developed a solution they called “MPressed”–innovative, decorative and minimalistic packaging that presents a rolled dress shirt and provides an easy, one-step opening feature.  The second place honor was a tie between “Kiss My Face – Dolphin Mouthwash” by the student team from Rochester Institute of Technology and “Refresh Mouthwash” by the student team from Virginia Tech.  In addition, each winning team was invited to present their design idea at the 2013 Walmart Sustainable Packaging Expo, May.

The annual NextPack conference is one of the premier events in the country focused on creating networking and educational opportunities that help packaging professionals succeed.  The 2014 summit will be here before you know it.  Get involved now!