Modern-day packaging is not just about protecting and preserving the products contained within; it is integral to how a brand or product communicates, promotes and sells its products to its customers. There is now an importance of product packaging that there never was previously.
It has taken over 1,500 years for product packaging to become the often highly- designed, creative and diverse product range that we recognise today, playing an important role in diversifying a product or range in a highly competitive and crowded marketplace. Companies use product packaging for competitive advantage, often used in conjunction with the latest dynamic technological innovations.
The Evolution and Importance of Product Packaging
In the beginning…
In the earliest times, food was made and consumed locally, so there was no real need for packaging. Its purpose then was to simply ensure the safe transport and storage of food supplies. We looked to nature for our food containers at this time and fashioned vessels from natural materials, such as bamboo, gourds, tree leaves, and coconut shells.
Over time, our packaging requirements began to change and we started to look for new methods and ways to store, protect, and transport food and other items.
Paper is the oldest packaging material which can be re-shaped to suit the product being carried or stored. Mulberry tree bark was used in China in the 1st and 2nd centuries B.C. to wrap food, and as paper-making techniques improved during the following 1500 years, it was used to transport goods from China to Middle Eastern countries.
A Step Change
The Industrial Revolution saw the beginnings of consumerism and brought with it greater availability and range of products. As trade flourished, more goods became available to consumers and smart businesses started to consider ways to differentiate their products. Packaging was expensive at this time, and its use was limited to luxury supplies.
Pre- & Post War Innovations
The bar was raised during and after WWI, with remarkable innovations made in packaging such as moulded glasses, cardboard, cellophane and metal cans. Standards were raised and manufacturers became acutely aware of the crucial role packaging had to play in promoting their products to a more discerning consumer who could now often choose from a range of suppliers.
The ‘plastic revolution’ arrived in the mid-1980s to early 1990s. Being lighter, using plastic meant goods could be transported more easily and at a lower cost for manufacturers and suppliers. Plastic technological advancements saw high-density polyethylene (HDPE) becoming the choice for milk packaging, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) for the bottled drinks sector.
Plastic in packaging was considered a key turning point for the industry, with packaging now possible in all shapes, designs and sizes. Cellulose plastic dominated the flexible packaging sector for many years, and corrugated board fuelled the evolution, being the strongest and most reliable fluting. Vacuum packaging was also used in various sectors and made packaging more convenient.
The dominance of plastic packaging is all around us. Today’s heightened environmental awareness of the impact of plastic production and use is creating a sea-change in attitudes across the globe and with it a changing demand for alternative packaging materials.
A Global Village & A Discerning Consumer
The advancements in digital technologies have allowed many businesses to grow rapidly and attain a global reach. With unprecedented and rising competition, there is now a link between the importance of product packaging for product differentiation.
As consumers, our behaviours, buying patterns and expectations have also changed significantly, as evidenced by the availability and use of computers and mobiles across the world. Having access to information 24/7, from almost anywhere, we value engaging experiences that provide utility and/or a novelty. Innovations like barcodes, and digital and mobile technologies are continually being tested to change or amend our retail experiences. Product packaging remains at the centre of these developments.
The Re-birth of the Revolution?
There’s no doubt that packaging challenges will grow more complicated in the future. The continuing population growth, changing attitudes to the environment and a growing desire for lower-carbon living, will create a demand for different and innovative types of packaging products. The concern with the importance of product packaging has now changed to be a matter of its environmental consequences.
Smithers Pira, a worldwide authority on packaging, paper and print industry supply chains, claims “the global packaging market is estimated to reach $975 billion by the end of 2018” 
PG Paper is a premium paper supplier, that helps businesses across the globe. In terms of packaging, we offer Folding Box Board, Solid Bleached Sulphate (SBS), Cup Stock, Testliner and Kraftliner, amongst various other paper grades for different end usages.
We also provide customised solutions for your paper requirements.
If you have any further questions about the evolution and importance of product packaging and the paper industry; we are here to help! Or contact us or send your paper queries and requirements to [email protected] and a member of our team will be in touch with a bespoke, cost-effective solution.