Ageing population: a missed opportunity for manufacturers?

Manufacturers in Australia need to recognise the value of Australia’s ageing population and adjust their packaging accordingly, said Fergal Barry from Arthritis Australia.

Presenting at the Australian Institute of Packaging’s National Conference, Barry, the strategic partnerships manager at Arthritis Australia, said Australia’s ageing population is becoming increasingly frustrated with hard to open or inaccessible packaging.

Over the past 20 to 30 years, packaging has become increasingly difficult for consumers to negotiate thanks to the requirements to ensure products are child resistant, tamper resistant, theft resistant and/or portion controlled.

He said one in two Australians face difficulty opening or reading packaging, 89 percent have been frustrated or furious with packaging, and 53 percent have suffered an injury as a result of inaccessible packaging.

With Australia’s ageing population, manufacturers need to reconsider who they’re targeting with their packaging, Barry said, and realise that the elderly represent a huge opportunity.

“They are largest and fastest growing sector in developed and developing countries,” he said. “They are the biggest, they are the fastest growing and they have the [largest share of] wealth … When you identify that issue, your market actually increases.”

Relatively small changes to elements of packaging, such as increasing the font size or using colour to distinguish between different product ranges can make a big difference in winning disgruntled consumers back, and also in creating a point of difference for your brand, Barry said.

“With this global change in the market place, a smaller company can have an advantage over the bigger players because of their ability to adapt.

“Accessibility can be a competitive advantage … it’s a way to compete and a way for SMEs to take market share away from the major players,” he said.

Barry added that 6.5 million Australians have difficulty with vacuum-sealed plastic containers, for example, so if manufacturers adjust their packaging to improve accessibility, this improvement needs to be clearly conveyed to consumers.

“If a consumer has a negative experience … it’s not enough just to fix the packaging. When they see that pack, they have a negative association either with your brand or the pack format.”

Manufacturers need to communicate the ease of packaging or the change in packaging that now makes it easier to access, he insists.

Barry would like to see the roll-out of a national ‘ease of use’ certification scheme, where products are independently tested by consumers and their accessibility clearly conveyed on retailers’ shelves.

A step in the right direction has been the development of the Initial Scientific Review (ISR) – a result of collaboration between Nestle, Arthritis Australia, NSW Health and Georgia Tech. The ISR is being used by Arthritis Australia to evaluate and improve the packaging of hundreds of products from over 50 companies both in Australia and internationally. It has been adopted by NSW Health to evaluate the food packaging of its suppliers, ranking them from -8 to +8, to help make food packaging easier to open for elderly or frail hospital patients.

“The +8 to -8 rating gives a standard method to compare products’ ease of opening and legibility, so an organisation can compare two competing brands of a similar product, or a manufacturer can compare two design solutions for a product,” said Barry.



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