Packaging technologies have evolved to enable manufacturers to enhance their brand’s standing in the marketplace.

According to statistics shared by PackSmart at the recent Emballage Packaging Exhibition, 90% of industry respondents believe that designers provide a significant impact in reinforcing the integrity of all packaging functions.1 Those are strong numbers, but consider this: more than 50% of industry respondents support the premise that great design makes a difference in product differentiation and contributes to the product’s unique selling proposition (USP).

Packaging’s primary function is to protect, store and transport, but the evolution of production, graphics, and printing technologies during recent decades has presented tremendous opportunities for differentiation.


It used to be that form followed function. However, evolutions in plastics, extrusion and molding have sculpted shapes that create a new world of interaction between packaging and its intended end users. Structure is no longer a rigid frame, but an ergonomic paradigm of possibilities.

Hot trends include high-end nestability, where spout and cap shapes are molded at the bottom of containers. Some caulk cartridges no longer feature a 4-in. spout, which adds height to the product. Instead, a side-ring spout attachment provides more efficient transportation, stackability and retail shelving.

Some plastic gallon cans are fully nestable and provide prominent logistics gains in the supply and warehousing of packaging components. The migration toward a thinner side-wall in polypropylene (PP) containers is an eye-opener when it comes to 2-, 3- and 5-gal containers. Sustainability and key logistics savings are appropriately becoming determining driving forces.

Cultural differences often dictate packaging preferences. North America is still entrenched in high-priced metal gallon containers, for example, while simultaneously using sustainable fiber cartridges as the norm for caulk and sealants. Meanwhile, Europe’s shelves have been filled for years with plastic cartridges and in-mold labeled gallons. Hermetic fiber drums for liquids are also used successfully in Europe, even for outdoor storage.


A variety of printing and decorating technologies have been developed in order to embrace these new structural trends. These innovations primarily come in the form of shrink-sleeves and more efficient and high-definition printing techniques. However, the adhesives and sealants industry has not fully embraced these printing and imaging advances to their fullest potential.

Most retail brands in adhesives and sealants still rely on bold, solid colors and pictograms to generate interest. The use of photography-in addition to illustrations and pictogram-like symbols-has a definite place in the communication of information and hierarchy in a brand’s message. Photography offers the potential to help facilitate the end user’s comprehension of our industry’s complex regulations and safety concerns.

As we develop the next generations of packaging, new opportunities arise in the areas of sustainability, longevity and usability. Structural designers, brand managers and graphic artists can use innovative technologies to provide new and improved methods of communication with end users. It is now possible to create an experience and enhance the brand’s bond with weekend DIYers and contractors alike.

The Emballage Packaging Exhibition website is located at


1. Design Packaging Study, Salon Emballage, June 2010,