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Shorter flaps, thinner boxes, less colour: Inflation is changing the way products are packaged

If you’ve noticed that recently purchased products come in boxes, cartons, and other packaging that seem smaller, lighter, and decorated in less conspicuous colors, that’s because they really are.

Just as inflation, which has reached a 40-year high, is forcing households to pay more for everyday purchases, the companies that make those products are having to spend much more on producing and packaging items like lipstick, cereal for breakfast, cookies and toys.

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

“Packaging changes are being driven by both inflation and supply chain disruptions,” said Lisa Pruett, president of RRD Packaging Solutions, a leading provider of paper packaging products and printing services. marketing for more than 90% of the Fortune 100 brands in all industries, including grocery. , cosmetics and health.

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

To be sure, consumers have already seen examples of “reduced” items on their supermarket shelves: reduced toilet paper, fewer chips in a bag or less dish soap in a plastic bottle.
Brands, in response to inflation and supply chain disruptions, are reducing product packaging sizes as a way to cut costs.  An example: shorter fins.

Product shrinkage, also known as “shrinkage inflation,” 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 increased costs. costs.

But brands are cutting costs in other ways, too, and without necessarily reducing the amount of product in the can or box, Pruett said.

Color changes, smaller flaps, slimmer boxes

In product packaging, using one color palette over another can affect costs, Pruett said.

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

But the white “substrate,” or the surface of the paper packaging, is typically 20-30% more expensive than opting for gray or brown paper made from recycled packaging material.

Brands are also switching to lower-cost recycled materials and removing extra embellishments on the outside of packaging to keep costs down.

In response to inflationary pressures, shoppers “could see brown or gray in the future as brands adopt lower-cost, more sustainable options like recycled paper,” Pruett said.

Pruett also pointed to a large medical device manufacturer that has switched to a paper sleeve insert instead of a plastic one to hold the product, which is cheaper and more environmentally friendly. He declined to name the brand, citing confidentiality agreements.

Then there are some more subtle packaging tweaks to be implemented in grocery stores that will likely go unnoticed.

“The flaps at the top of the boxes are getting shorter or the box itself is thinner,” Pruett said. “Two years ago, these changes may have been minor. Now they are having an ever-increasing impact on businesses.”

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