This is a good question. There are many reasons why making packaging usable by a wide range of people must be good for manufacturers. On her blog, Becky Taylor says – “Designing packaging that allows for universal usage therefore makes good sense from a strategic standpoint, but even without this economic incentive I believe that brands also have a responsibility to ensure that their products are accessible to all” .
Developing accessible packaging is an investment for manufacturers, as satisfied customers can result in increased profits and a well-respected brand identity. A product that is known for being easy to use and accessible for people with impairments is likely to be favoured by consumers who have difficulties with packaging. With an ageing population, this group is sure to increase . “It’s great for customer satisfaction and ultimately, improving sales. The market for easy-open products is huge”. So what is stopping them?
Are there any signs of a response?
Some commentators suggest that the packaging industry is very set in its ways and not ready for change. There is often an assumption that making packaging easier to open is going be very difficult or automatically very expensive. Manufacturers may be committed to a certain pack format which they believe is needed for consumer recognition. Another barrier may be regulatory requirements, for reasons of security (as with medication). Rules about labelling, or which compel suppliers to put a lot of information in a small space may make things difficult for people with less than perfect eyesight.
It seems that small to medium organisations may be better attuned to the need for more accessible packaging. They may have a greater scope to fundamentally redesign a product. With a multinational, the process of making a fundamental design change to a brand, especially one used nationally or globally, can be quite significant. But if you’re a small manufacturing company and somebody says, “here’s an opportunity, here’s how to redesign the product, you can just say ‘yeah’, let’s do it”. This can produce a competitive edge – “you can pick up contracts and replace existing suppliers in a market just by putting the consumer at the centre of the design process.”
Easy open packaging is a point of difference and gets away from price-only competition. Where a lot of companies are competing on more than price, winning contracts may be the rewarded for innovation.
An example I found on the internet is Ecobliss India. Its ‘easy opening’ blister packs have a special focus on “aged” customers . They aim to minimise the use of tough adhesives, use thin and easy-to-tear materials, simple instructions and opening features. They illustrate a new design for a toothbrush with an easy-to-open blister package. The design is simple; a blister presenting the product is encased in a printed cardboard card. After folding back the cardboard card, the customer can simply slide the product out of the blister. “Finally, no more cuts and puncture wounds due to jagged edges”.
“Imagine, the plight of an elderly person unable to access a special toothbrush from a blister pack and who may end up throwing away the product without using it”. Chakravarthi, managing director of Ecobliss .
What could help?
Getting feedback from consumers is crucial. Manufacturers could benefit greatly from the insights of older consumers, especially those with impairments.
Arthritis NZ’s initiative (the survey mentioned in my previous blog) is a good example of informing manufacturers. Arthritis NZ is now working with the Packaging Council and packaging companies to address accessibility for people with arthritis. Arthritis Australia has set up an Initial Scientific Review (IRS) which rates products according to their accessibility.
Perhaps what is also needed is some direct action by consumers. Boycotts of troublesome products could be considered. Not quite about accessibility, the example of older people who left all their packaging at the supermarket is worth a look.