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Each package has several basic functions with a regular structure. Basically these functions are: A) Containment, B) Protection, C) Preservation, D) Convenience and E) Information. There are also some additional functions mentioned by publications and organizations include: communication, selling, presentation, promotion, environmental responsibility and other. Gordon L. Robertson mentions in his book (2013: 4) also the environment function, previously suggested by Lockhart in 1997. This theory implies that if a package is designed to fulfill its function, it must endure all basic functions in three environments: ambient, human and physical. During designing and manufacturing, these functions must be considered by companies and the output is the specific package found on shelves of the shops. For each product, it is the packaging functions which are all considered necessary even though some are being more endorsed by certain manufacturers. It often occurs that a package lacks in one or more of the functions categories. When producing goods, the main focus often shifts from the end consumer. The fact that package is supposed to fulfill the requirements of customers may conflict with business objectives set by producers as for example costs, availability, brand image, marketing and therefore the objectives of society are considered secondary.
Containment as a function is to conceal the product. Other role of containment is to prevent products from spillage and loss, starting from the packing line in the transportation phases until it arrives to customer’s home. If goods are not contained properly sometimes can have dangerous consequences especially when contains liquids and chemicals. Even when a product consisted of different parts and it’s not contain all of them or when the instruction for using that good is not contained in the package or is not properly prepared can make its use dangerous or may be make the product unusable. Every kind of package has its sensitive areas which may get damaged and cause loss of containment and therefore producers enforce protocols and testing of package to ensure that the contents are properly contained.
From the early beginning, the products that people used, such as tools, clothes or food, had to be transported to their homes without the goods being altered by the environment, air, dust, vibration, weather conditions or animals. The protection function of package seems to be made for representing and preventing all outside forces to intervene with the product inside. Certain goods also need to be protected from special temperature or humidity levels to preserve their shape or purpose. Therefore packages should protect their contents from changing their nature. Providing sufficient packages that will protect the products, is necessary to identify the product’s characteristics and address potential hazards that would tamper those. Such issue often proves efficient to use a secondary package when protecting larger quantities of products together and transporting them.
Preservation is not a universal packaging function for all the goods, it should be considered especially when dealing with food products, pharmaceutics and other perishable products. Preservation is very important for it is to keep products in controlled environment so it remains safe to use for longer time period. The main key to correct preservation is to package the product while it is in safe condition and it is imperial to understand how can this state be sustained inside the package by defining the product-spoilage mechanisms (Emblem and Emblem, 2012: 41). The package attributes therefore have to address potential causes of spoilage in order for the product to maintain in desired state. Preservation is necessary for products that need to maintain certain levels of oxygen, moisture, volatiles or they are light sensitive (Emblem and Emblem, 2012: 42).
Simply a package is a tool that helps goods and products remain in optimal condition when reaching consumers, it also should be convenient for them to carry, transport and open the package while maintain safe. Based on the retail assortment theory, customers make decisions while shopping and the fundamental choice is which size of product they will buy according to their needs and convenience. Global performance Management Company Nielsen Holdings PLC based in United Kingdom provided retailing solutions based on sophisticated data from local customer researches. They also offer consultancy services for large retailers or supermarkets where they assort the goods based on psychology theory of customer behavior. One of decisions customers tend to make while shopping is choosing the amount and also size of package either by price or their preference.
Packages are designed based on their uses. These examples represent common situations when convenience is truly important and therefore majority of manufacturers offer their products in various sizes and shapes to satisfy needs of their customers. The convenience function extends also to secondary package, the pallets or boxes used when transporting goods are often determined by equipment and the ability to fit primary packages into secondary one without wasting space based on resource utilization and easy handling. To improve food quality, intelligent packaging provides optimization and enhancement of certain foods. As mentioned by Yam, Takhistov and Miltz, the intelligent packaging can include gas absorption technology or gas emitting to extend shelf life or improve food quality. Another example of intelligent packaging is including metal structures in package which interact with microwave activity to ensure the food would become crispy (Yam, Takhistov and Miltz, 2005).
Every package has several categories of information such as:
• Tracking information
• Product information
• Marketing and brand information
Tracking information is usually in form of bar or matrix code; however, they might be also triple dimensional or chips with radio frequencies. It includes the metadata of product. This information is not available for end-users of product, on the contrary it is essential in order for a product to reach customer. Special equipment such as scanners or detectors are needed to access the information which consists of manufacturer, basic description, package dimensions and other data regarding product that are not likely to change over longer period of time. Codes tend to vary across the world, for example
UPC code is usually used in USA while EAN code is used primarily in European retail (Scandit, 2015). Considering that radio frequency technology is known for more than hundred years, the use in identifying dates to Mr Charles A. Walton who patented a radio frequency identifier in 1980 (Walton, 1983). It still remains quite pricy, even though the price of tag decreased from $1 (in 2003) to around 10 cents (Forbes, 2017). The RFID tags are mostly used for high value items while the warehouses and transportation companies are required to possess complex technology to access the information coded into chip which contains extensive amount of data compared to bar codes. The universal tags also diminish language barriers across supply chain and they revolutionize it (Robertson, 2013: 4).
Product information consists of data describing ingredients and nutrition volumes of food products or information with technical details for electronic goods. There are several regulations on product information by government in majority of countries. One of essential information on each product is the country of origin, manufacturer and distributor.
Each product requires different information based on its nature and purpose. For example, in textile industry the labels that indicate how to handle clothes when washing and drying are strictly regulated and universal for global distribution. During recent years, society became intensively interested about products, the content of each products and materials, moreover, people became more dependent on other person’s opinions about products called reviews which are shared online on websites and forums. Therefore, manufacturers chose to meet the new demand for information by attaching and printing smart codes (QR codes) which can be scanned by smart phones and then detailed product’s description would appear on screen. This technology enables consumers to access more data about goods they seek without assistance of store workers.
Obviously, every manufacturer wants consumers to continue shopping products from their assortment and that is the reason why every package in retail store has a distinctive brand logo. Logos, product names, brand slogans, these are all tools used by companies to signal to customers which product they buy. In every retail store, people can choose from tens of different brands in every product category, which makes the competition among brands to impress customer even tougher. Sometimes, even the package itself can be brand-specific so customers can recognize it quicker. A good example provides a company manufacturing potato crisps Pringles. Pringles, unlike their competitors, chose to package crisps neatly into carton tubes instead of traditional plastic or foil bags. Another important communication distinction on the package is colour. Brands tend to follow strict color code for their product lines for easier recognition. In addition, color is one of tools to describe a sub category of products as is common in milk section: blue package means low fat milk, while red package suggests the full fat (cca. 3,5%).