Short plates, thin boxes, fewer colors: inflation is changing the way products are packaged

If you’ve noticed that products you’ve recently purchased come in boxes, cartons, and other packaging that look smaller, lighter, and are decorated in lower-gloss colors, it’s because they’re already there.

Just as inflation at its highest level in 40 years is forcing families to pay more for everyday purchases, the companies that make these products are having to spend more on producing and packaging items like lipstick, breakfast cereal, cookies, and toys.

Industry experts say adjusting packaging is one way companies are trying to control costs.

“Changes in packaging are driven by inflation and supply chain disruptions,” said Lisa Pruitt, president of RRD Packaging Solutions, a leader in paper packaging products, printing services, and marketing for more than 90% of the Fortune 100 brand across industries, including grocery. health.

She said up to 81% of RRD customers have made changes to their packaging in some way within the past year.

Sure, consumers have already spotted examples of the “mini” stuff on grocery shelves — diluted toilet paper, less chips in a bag or less dish soap in a plastic bottle.
Brands, in response to inflation and supply chain disruptions, are downsizing product packaging as a way to cut costs.  One example: the shorter panels.

Downsizing, also known as “shrink,” occurs when items such as toilet paper rolls or the number of cookies in a container begin to shrink in size or quantity — or both — due to rising costs.

But Pruitt said brands also reduce costs in other ways and without necessarily reducing the amount of product in the box.

Color changes, small plates, delicate boxes

In product packaging, using one color palette over another can impact costs, Prutt said.

For example, the interior of the box containing a new lipstick tends to be white because the color conveys a more elegant and luxurious feel.

But the white “substrate,” or surface of the paper packaging, is usually 20% to 30% more expensive than choosing gray or brown paper made from recycled packaging materials.

Brands are also turning to low-cost recycled materials and removing excess frills on the outside of the packaging to keep costs down.

In response to inflationary pressures, “Shoppers may see brown or gray going forward as brands embrace lower cost and more sustainable options, such as recycled paper,” Pruitt said.

Pruett also noted a large medical device maker that has switched to paperback instead of plastic to carry the product, which is cheaper and more environmentally friendly. She refused to name the brand, citing confidentiality agreements.

Then there are some subtle packaging tweaks being rolled out at grocery stores that will likely fly under the radar.

“The boards on top of the boxes are getting shorter, or the box itself is thinner,” Pruett said. “A couple of years ago, these changes may have been minor. Now they are increasingly affecting businesses.”

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