anon: (archaic or literary)
- in a short time; soon

50:50 vision

80:20 insight

Un-smart packaging

Packaging has been in the public eye for some years now. Specifically, the over-use of it by supermarkets, and the problems of recycling. But I don’t recall anyone demanding packaging which is smarter.

Smart packaging could transform our lives, almost as much as smart phones have. But is anyone working on it? Perhaps the odd (and ‘odd’ may be particularly appropriate here), the odd university student or professor may be working on it in a basement … somewhere. But it isn’t Silicon Valley stuff, is it.

Okay. So what do I mean about smart packaging? Lets look at just a couple of examples.

Words on the label or box

You may have 20:20 vision … for now … but a lot of people have difficulty reading small print, and the packaging experts seem to take a sadistic pleasure in squeezing as much as possible into the smallest space. Coupled with that, they often use capitals inappropriately, and use a colour which provides too little contrast with the background.

I can think of two different routes smart packaging could take. One could be a label that talks to you. This could make the world very noisy. And you probably don’t want the whole spiel, so the packaging needs to be smart enough to just tell you the bits you’re interested in. An alternative is a smart label which magnifies the part you point at or touch.

Getting the last scraping

When was the last time you were able to get all the jam or marmalade out of the jar? With so many packaged products, it’s really difficult getting that last little bit out. There has been an improvement in recent times with the advent of the upside-down bottle.

Our Heinz squeezy salad cream bottle sits on its lid, so the contents drain towards the bottom. But even then, the shape of the neck still traps some of the contents inside.

Jar and bottles - Copywrite (c) 123RF Stock Images
So the first thing the manufacturers need to do is design the container so the contents doesn’t get stuck around the neck. Then they need to make the packaging from a material which has very low friction so the product slides down easily … yes, even the marmalade.

Ever struggled to get the last pickled onion out of the bottom of the jar? The smart packaging should reduce in size as the contents are used up, so that last pickled onion is easy to spear!

Well engineered packaging – one example

Lots of products are dispensed from bottles with a plunger at the top. But will they deliver that last little bit? Our family uses one which does better then the rest: E45 cream. Our large bottle of this ran out recently. Expecting to find lots of cream trapped and unable to get out, I levered the top off. Inside there was the merest smidgen … because the dispensing mechanism is so well engineered.

So, packaging manufacturers, listen up, and give us some smart packaging.

James – More Anon …