The process of tossing our favourite snacks and treats into our trolley is one of the most menial, but the process of creating product packaging is a much more arduous task. Every object on our shelves has been dragged through an extensive production cycle and then dumped into the hands of advertisers and marketers, all with the purpose of encouraging us to spend.
With thousands of items on offer at every supermarket, it is no surprise that product packaging is one of the biggest industries in the world. So where does the story of a cardboard box begin?
Cardboard is sourced from softwood trees, which are usually found in cooler climates such as Canada, Scandinavia and Russia. The two main materials which cardboard consists of are an inner paper line and an outer Kraft paper. The softwood trees are lumbered for the Kraft layer, which is used to give it that smooth, light brown finish. The wood chips from the wood are then pulped. This process involves reducing the chips to the thinnest possible layer and subsequently cleaning or bleaching them. The thin material is then fluted with the inner layer to give the cardboard strength and that familiar zig-zag pattern.
The cardboard is then put through a corrugator so the board can be pressed to size, before the excess material is trimmed and recycled. In a nutshell, this is the process of product packaging, but the cardboard still has a long way to go on its journey to a supermarket shelf.
Companies and organisations use many different types of cardboard to house their products and optimise them to sell as effectively as possible. But before any of this can happen, there are some environmental concerns to adhere to. When a design is agreed on by advertisers and the company, a die cutter will be used to cut the shape of the box and any waste material will be recycled to go through the entire process once more. The die cutter is becoming more and more important in the industry of product packaging as advertisers look to pack their product with as little material possible. These steps ease the lumbering and production process, making the journey from tree to shelf a whole lot greener.
There is an element of psychology that goes into product packaging, too. The colours used by advertisers can drastically increase the performance of an item on a shelf. Certain colours are noticed before others, and certain colours can trigger specific emotions in a shopper. For example, yellow is the colour we notice first, so a number of different items on each aisle will have an element of yellow to them. Bear this in mind the next time you do your weekly shop.
Children are more susceptible to this form of advertising, and that’s why cereals and sweets aimed at children consist of bright, colourful packaging, and are placed at a lower level than adult-targeted products. Advertisers target eye level in shoppers, as studies have shown that you are more likely to purchase a product if it is at your eye level.
The whole process of product packaging is a complex and in-depth process, which subsequently results in a multi-million-pound industry. So the next time you’re in Tesco, deliberating over whether you should treat yourself to that box of chocolates or not, just think; that box has come all the way from Scandinavia just for you. Enjoy.