Thursday, February 02, 2006

Fear Factor Packaging

I'm getting really nervous with the daily security threats that abound in the news. People forget that packaging has an important role to play in helping keep our products safe for consumption. Remember the Tylenol packaging incident? Many packaging applications, such as the tamper evident seal and the shrink wrap band were invented as a result of that incident. Frighteningly, a major concern should be our food supply. One bio-terrorism incident in our food supply could be a thousand times more deadly than 9/11.

Packaging is starting to get some media play on this topic. I just read an article that tied packaging to the bird flu. Really! Stay tuned next week for "How Packaging Causes Global Warming." I am just kidding. But let’s get serious. There are some pretty important ways that packaging impacts our product security. In fact, I recently wrote about it in my 13 Packaging Trends for 06. The premise is that keeping products secure will be one of the most important influences on purchasing in the future.

Smart or intelligent packaging has an important role to play in protecting the public. New innovations are surfacing every day. As an example, I spoke about TTI's (time-temperature indicators) at the recent Marketing to Women Conference. It is amazing how this product security enhancement impacts the purchasing decision of the female consumer.

Some other exciting things I have read recently about how packaging can protect us include . . .
• A Canadian-based company's Toxin Guard is a system of placing antibody-based tests on polymer packaging films to detect pathogens or other selected micro organisms. The insert sends a visual alert when it encounters targeted spoilage bacteria, or pathogens such as E-coli, Listeria and Salmonella.

• A French company, CRYOLOG, has designed the TRACEO® transparent label to trace freshness at a glance. Applied over a bar code, the label turns opaque when the product is no longer fit for consumption by using an innovative patented microorganism technology that simulates the actual degradation of the product to which it is affixed.

• The January 2006 deadline related to RFID tagging mandated by Wal-Mart has passed. Every one was in a frenzy about this and what it meant, but RFID technology has yet to be widely applied in an automated fashion. The reality of RFID tracking is unlike current bar codes in which all similar items, e.g. 12 oz. cans of Coca-Cola, have the same number. RFID tags would give each individual item a unique identification number. That means tracking literally everything -- including you. I was astounded to read that numerous major companies have patents on RFID implantation in humans.

• The jury on consumer acceptance of RFID is still out. Consider this excerpt from the book Spychips:"Marketers want to tag data to identify you and profile your possessions so they can target you with marketing and advertising material wherever you go. Government agents crave the power of hidden spychips to monitor citizens' political activities and whereabouts. And, of course, criminals can't wait to identify easy marks and high-ticket items by scanning the contents of shopping bags and suitcases at a distance.--Katherine Albrecht & Liz McIntyre, Spychips, p 29."

Wow, that should open a few eyes. As I stated in my packaging trend article, “Big Brother could be watching you from your package in the near future.” Just think tracking from the manufacture, through the consumer to the disposal site. I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this. I have OnStar on one of my vehicles and it operates on a similar premise but it doesn't come inside my house. So think about smart packaging applications that make sense. Keep an eye out for consumer opinion to determine how consumers feel about big brother watching them. The fear of being spied upon might impact a consumer’s decision to buy your product.


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