The economy and packaging are affected by the powerful Japanese earthquake
The earthquake which hit Japan on 11 March 2011 severely impacted the Japanese economy, after it had been showing some signs of recovery. Packaging was also impacted. With power shortages after the earthquake, many packagers had to cut down on the production of less important items, and had to prioritise supplying packaging for important products, for example bottled water. Some packaging production sites nearer to the areas affected by the earthquake had to be temporarily fully or partially shut down, and production had to be moved to other less affected factories. The earthquake stimulated demand for both smaller individual sizes of packaging, as well as bulk packs for stocking up for emergencies. Getting products to the earthquake-affected area safely and quickly pushed the need for efficient productivity on packaging lines.
Fewer babies and more senior citizens lead to changes in packaging
Japan’s much discussed declining and ageing population is creating a greater share of dependent population, and putting increasing pressure on the economy; also impacting packaging. New designs are being seen to answer the unique requirements of this trend, with greater emphasis on universal designs (packaging designs suitable for all ages). Kirin’s Namacha 2-litre PET bottle is one such example. A number of indentations have been added to the bottle to make it easy to hold, open and pour. This kind of universal design is expected to become even more prominent throughout beverage packaging. In addition, changes in size are being prompted by trends amongst consumers for later marriages, smaller families and fewer babies, all of which fuel demand for smaller serve/individual pack sizes.
Environmental awareness continues to be an important feature in packaging
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry continues to promote the 3Rs of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, and manufacturers continue to develop environmentally-friendly packaging which uses less material of petroleum origin. Companies are developing lightweight packaging, smaller closures and thinner flexible labels, but they are also using recycled materials and bio-plastic as another path to reducing CO2 emissions.
Fears of radiation contamination entering food supplies and the fragility of Japan’s energy supplies were two important lessons for consumers following the March earthquake. Leaks from the damaged Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant caused great anxiety, as did the shortage of power which followed this, and damage to petrochemical complexes. This reinforced amongst consumers the importance of building a more sustainable society and using packaging in a more sustainable manner
Lifestyle changes bring a change in consumer choice in terms of products and packaging
Rising health awareness became a bigger factor in the choice of food and beverage products, with sales of products such as tobacco and confectionery on the decline. This meant that packaging for these products was also negatively affected. And, in general, years of economic stagnation and the devastating earthquake also encouraged Japanese people to adopt more modest lifestyles. Added to this was a decline in average incomes. More women in the workplace (and therefore not at home) meant less time for cooking, which promoted greater demand for canned/preserved food, thus opening opportunities in this category for packaging formats such as metal and retort pouches. An example of this was Hagoromo Foods, and its expansion of stand-up pouches in its “home cooking series”.
Packaging developments attract consumers
Sophisticated and mature markets are fuelling a need for added-value in terms of product packaging. Eco-friendly packaging is an example of this, and has become a key part of the purchasing decision. In addition, innovative packaging is another important strategy to compete in the market. With these considerations in mind, Kao launched a refill for facial toners, Oriena Lotion, in an HDPE bottle which has a unique closure to help the smooth refilling process. Also, Toppan Printing developed a bio-plastic film for stand-up pouches which has been welcomed by consumers and brand owners, and Aeon used liquid cartons for styling agent refills for its private label product. This type of packaging is usually used for dairy or beverage packaging, but is more eco-friendly and cost-effective.
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