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August 07, 2008

Is there such a thing as Green Packaging?

Joanne_hines_2 My guest blogger today is JoAnn Hines, the Chief Executive Officer at J.R. Hines International to help us make sense of green packaging. She is an expert in packaging trends and implementing innovative new packaging technologies covering consumer product packaging, sustainable and green packaging, branding, merchandising, retail packaging trends and packaging patent infringement. Her packaging articles and columns are syndicated around the globe including Webpackaging.com, the #1 consumer products packaging site, and a blog entitled Packaging News You Can Use.

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JoAnn Hines: I just got a call from Brandweek to comment on green product packaging backlash. I've been writing about it for a while but this week reading about square milk bottles brought it all to a head. While the idea of a square milk bottle looks good on paper and its attractive financially to the retailer, a lot of consumers hate it.

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Cargo_packaging_2Every week I get dozens of new green packaging press releases. Some of these are really a stretch. It seems with green the "in" thing to do, everyone is trying to jump on the band wagon. Many of these innovations really don't make sense or in many cases won't "connect" with the consumer. Just because its green, environmentally friendly, sustainable, compostable, recyclable or biodegradable doesn't mean that consumers will buy a product. Consumer acceptance is a very complicated issue. The growth of convenience and luxury categories flies in the face of the environmental movement too. They use lots of packaging and are Method_packaging_2expensive too.

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Two companies working to get it right are Cargo Cosmetics and Method. Cargo starts with a bio-based plastic case for their lipsticks and then packages them in seed embedded boxes - just plant the box and you'll get flowers. Method uses 100% post consumer recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET). You might recognize the phthalate part as it's been getting a lot of bad press when used in beverage bottles. You don't drink the Method cleaning products; in this case it's a good use of recycling technology. Both are useful products that consumers want - being green is a plus.

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We want it and we want it now. If it happens to tap into the "green movement" so much the better. The average consumer really does care about the environment they just aren't going to sacrifice their creature comforts to get there. In reality only about 10% of the American populace are willing sacrificers. We can all use a little less packaging in our lives, however, without the package you cannot have a product so give packaging a break.

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Packaging has many roles to play in addition to protecting the product and getting it in your hands, and they are attributes which many will not willingly give up. Just think how you shy away from any damaged product packaging or regect the damaged or bruised product at the supermarket. The regection rate is already 20% and without packaging this would skyrocket. And who do you think pays the ultimate price for less packaging? It's not the retailers or the consumer products companies, it's YOU the consumer.

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When was the last time you saw a sales person trained to tell you all about the item you are considering purchasing? The packaging tells you the story about what is inside and why you should buy it. You know the "silent salesperson." So before you jump on the "less" packaging bandwagon give some consideration to why the packaging is there in the first place. I wrote this little jingle for Twitter and that's says it all. "Toothpaste squeezes, eggs aren't cracked, pizza delivered, headache's better, beer anyone? Packaging a love affair you never knew you had."

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Now don't get me wrong, I have seen some very interesting concepts in "green" product packaging some that make sense to the consumer, but I have seen a lot of junk too. Some companies that are just making some green packaging noise hoping to capitalize on some of the current media buzz.

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What's your opinion? What kind of packaging are you willing to give up or have you switched to a different product because of a package seemed more environmentally friendly.

Do you have questions about what is green and what is greenwash? Ask them here or I can be reached at PackagingDiva@aol.com.

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