The importance of packaging innovations in the Swedish food sector

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Abstract in Undetermined Packaging is of particular importance to retailers, since it can be considered an integral part of the product and the first point of contact with the brand (Rundh 2005). Over 73% of interviewed consumers rely on packaging to aid their purchasing decisions (Wells et al. 2007), and retailers are the ‘gatekeepers’ to the consumers (Dobson et al. 2003) via the retail stores, where the packaging of a product is what meets the eyes of consumers. Young (2008:26) simply states, “The package is the product”, and packaging “combines the ‘4 Ps’ of marketing: the package contains the product, packages convey messages about product attributes to consumers as part of public relations, and often its price, while also carrying promotions”, making it an integral part of the product (Hawkes 2010:297). Hence, innovations in packaging and packaging systems in the food sector are intimately connected with the contained products; success or failure can be due to either or both aspects. And the success rate of food products is low: 80 to 90% of all launched products fail within the first year, in the USA (Rudolph 1995), with similar figures in other countries. This might be due to shortcomings in the methodology to develop (Stewart-Knox & Mitchell 2003) or that the right business model to “capture value from innovations” has not been designed (Teece 2010:183). And “value exists only if the consumer perceives it as such” (Burt 1989:29). Today, many retailers control the supply chain from producers to consumers (Fernie & Sparks 2009), have expanded their range of differentiated private labels (Burt & Sparks 2002) and increasingly compete with manufacturers’ brands, including in Sweden (Beckeman & Olsson 2011). This has resulted in increased demands for more flexible production to meet a greater variety of packaging sizes, products, recipes and delivery on demand, without increasing The importance of packaging innovations in the Swedish food sector 11 194 Chapter 11 the costs, and consequently smaller order sizes and varying designs (Van Donk 2001; Van Donk et al. 2008). The real breakthrough for packaged food in Sweden came with the introduction of frozen food in 1945 and self-service stores in 1947, both of which demanded packaging (Beckeman 2006). These changes initiated efficient supply chains, which together with a value perspective have become a necessity for the different requirements of various food products (Fisher 1997; Gustafsson et al. 2006). Food and beverages range from dry products to liquids, requiring distribution/storage temperatures from ambient, via refrigerated to frozen. Hence, product demands on packaging vary. The broader background to this chapter can be found in a doctoral thesis (Beckeman 2011) based on interviews with retailers, food manufacturers and packaging suppliers active in Sweden. To our knowledge, no similar investigation of the Swedish food sector of today has been carried out. The purpose was to investigate how the three groups of actors view innovations in their own area, their roles and the roles of other actors in the chain; i.e. if there is a gap of opinions about innovations among them. This chapter summarises the results from interviewing packaging suppliers based on the following research questions: • How do innovative Swedish packaging suppliers define innovations, and how do they regard their own role in food innovations? • What is the nature of the collaboration among packaging suppliers and other actors in the supply chain regarding food innovations? ‘Consumer’ is defined as the end consumer of a food product, whereas a ‘customer’ can be a food manufacturer, a retailer or the next link in the packaging supply chain, as packaging suppliers cannot be defined as one homogenous group. They can be material producers, packaging converters, packaging machinery suppliers and other relevant suppliers (Paine 2002), and can work as partners, sub-suppliers and/or competitors with each other, depending on the situation and the demands. In this mixture of packaging suppliers, some are considered more innovative and successful than others, as previously suggested by interviewed retailers (Beckeman & Olsson 2011) and food manufacturers (Beckeman et al., in press) and are the focus of this study. This chapter is organised as follows: it starts by summarising literature on packaging and packaging functions and related to food innovations, continues with methodology, including framework for analysis, which is followed by results and analysis, and ends with conclusions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNordic Retail Research: Emerging diversity
EditorsJohan Hagberg, Ulrika Holmberg, Malin Sundström, Lars Walter
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Other Mechanical Engineering

Free keywords

  • packaging suppliers
  • packaging logistics
  • retail
  • packaging innovation
  • Packaging
  • packaging functions


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