17 Dec 2013 Sustainable Packaging Outlook for 2014
At a recent green conference where I served on a panel of green packaging “experts” the inevitable question was asked – is green dead? More specifically, the person asking was questioning the importance of green packaging for business.
I responded the way I always do, green is not dead, it has however, evolved and matured. Not matured the way a market matures and becomes saturated or consumed to capacity. I wish that was the case, but matured the way we grow up beyond idealistic, often youthful perspectives and impatient expectations, to appreciate a broader and longer term objective. Perhaps looking at sustainability with more brain and logic, rather than heart and emotion? Maybe with less “cause” and more “because” it simply makes sense.
Green Packaging Street “Cred”
We have been selling green products to green minded customers for almost seven years. Our efforts have helped us enjoy relationships with some of the oldest and largest green companies, as well as with some of the newest and smallest. We have been the subject of countless articles, included in several books and even been recognized by our US Congress for our work. Last week we were even gratefully featured in an article in www.CrainsChicago.com (fill in search box with SALAZAR for a peek at the article). I share these facts not to brag, but to confirm that we have been doing this for a while and enjoyed some measure of success in spite of the ups and downs of an ever changing green market.
Advice From the Trenches
What we share with anyone who asks is that today if the best or only feature of your product and service is the fact that it is green, you will probably have a difficult time making the transition away from a green market that in the past has sometimes been mistakenly focused on guilt, shame or solely green motives, “Save the earth one BLANK at a time!”
The driving forces today are about time tested features including quality, service, and yes, price. The internet we all love has managed to make everything a commodity, so offering 100% organic baby clothes or 100% soy candles is not enough. Let’s face it, is there anything that is a greater commodity than a simple corrugated shipping box which is one of our core products? Creating that “image of difference” between us the multitudes on the internet doing something similar to what we do is the challenge. Delivering on that promise is imperative in order to secure that most important repeat customer.
What to Expect in 2014
Green versus Cost – The economy is neither as good as some try to convince us or as bad as others would like us to believe. However, until this age of uncertainty passes, if ever, the green benefits of every product will continue to be compared to the product’s cost benefits by careful consumers. It has to save money for the buyer even if it is a long payback. Do not expect anyone to pay a premium for green unless they see a bottom line benefit that goes well beyond the good feeling of doing good.
Green is a “Brand” too! – Branding has gone far beyond an easily recognized logo or graphics. It communicates “who we are” and “who” most of our customers are, is green.
Recycled Content Products – Utilizing products that can be EASILY recycled will continue being in demand and along with that, products that have a high recycled content. Companies will continue to be more responsible creating a market for the recycled content they are encouraging others to generate.
Reusable Packaging – Many companies who wanted to utilize reusable containers, simply could not afford the sizable, initial investment that is often necessary. Now with a slightly better economic outlook, I believe some of those interested companies will commit and save a lot of money in the long run.
“Back to Basics” – There will always be interest (and there should be) in innovative new products and materials. Recent history has taught us that many of those innovations are not affordable, not easily manufactured in large scale, or simply not practical. I expect 2014 to be a year when most will focus on REDUCTION as they continue to develop and experiment with thinner materials and designs that dramatically reduce the amount of packaging being used.
Perhaps there are no new and exciting revelations in the above information but I think time will prove this to be a good course for all of us to follow. It is indeed an exciting time to be selling green products to a green market because logic has overcome emotion and people are making, positive, long term changes in the way they operate their homes and businesses. That can’t be bad, can it?
We hope you have a wonderful and profitable 2014!