According to Manoj Balgi, general manager procurement of Britannia, the premium-ness of a product comes from quality and freshness of the product itself and not merely from the packaging. “The product has to give the customer the special or premium experience,” says Balgi during a discussion on packaging innovation that we had with him together with one of his packaging suppliers – Uflex.
“Premium packaging is enjoying a bit of an upsurge,” says Arun Anand, executive vice president marketing at Uflex, which is a major converter for Britannia Industries. “For instance, one can see more and more biscuits with expensive ingredients like almonds and cashews. The volumes of premium snack and food products and other consumer products are rising. After all these years of cost cutting, the trend is reversing especially on premium products. How much can you really reduce or cut down on packaging since the cost of packaging compared to the overall cost of the product is negligible. Now companies are spending more and more money in improving the packaging.”
Speaking about the premium look of flexible packaging, Balgi says, “I am hesitant to say that premium is more associated with matte finish. But if you look at the market, everybody is trying to get into matte. Not only biscuits, if you see the rice packets, the premium basmati comes in matte finish. I don’t know if matte is actually about premium-ness but that is what the market wants to think and it certainly seems to be working.”
As a national producer of bread, biscuits and cakes, Balgi emphasizes that packaging has to be fit for purpose and functional. A perishable product must have the pack integrity intact in the desired shelf-life, which means that a customer should not get a product which is not fit for use. “We all know that a product undergoes a sort of torture test after it leaves the factory before finally reaching the shelf in some hinterland. It goes through multiple rounds of handling, multiple temperatures and different environments. It may get to a modern trade (retail environment) where the temperature is controlled or an outlet where the temperature is exposed to direct sunlight and other possibilities . . . “It is important to understand the functionality of the product as well as ensure this functionality in the supply chains that exist in India,” explains Balgi.
“As far as innovation is concerned, our innovations focus more on packaging functionalities – on the barrier properties, tamper proofing and environment issues, on the value proposition for our customers,” says RK Jain of Uflex. Balgi of Britannia concurs that innovation and adaptation come from brand owners and converters. This is a mutual process, he says, “We have regular engagements with our converters for innovations in packaging – it can be for our new products or new packaging for existing products or to bring the cost down or also to handle a specific problem in the market.”
Sustainable solutions at a reasonable price
Balgi suggests that there are some critical concerns for Indian brand owners – among these is whether we are moving in the same direction as the global flexible packaging industry on issues such as sustainability. He says that it is actually a social or cultural issue of collection, sorting and recycling but it is important for all the stakeholders to make sure that the environment is protected. When confronted with the usual constraint of the price of sustainable materials, Balgi says,“This is where innovation is needed. I do believe that sustainable solutions can be achieved at a reasonable price. For this the flexible packaging industry along with their input material providers need to learn how to make things affordable. If a product is affordable, it will be adopted very fast. Just look at the cellphone and telecom industry. This is what motivates and inspires us.”