When I began my career in packaging in the 1980s, productivity improvement
programs were in full swing at most
consumer products companies. The first,
and often the most productive, target
for cost savings, was in the corrugated
shipping case. After all, the shipping case
had three simple objectives in its short life:
1. Contain the products for warehousing
2. Provide the proper product identification
As far as anyone was concerned, at the end
of its useful life, that brown box could be
tattered and worn, as long as the product
was protected and saleable.
With the advent of the European style
grocery model — one that focuses on rapid
product stocking vis-a-vis “Display Ready
or “Retail Ready” packaging — our little
brown box has been given a promotion. That
shipping box is now responsible for carrying
the load of being the final marketing tool at
the most critical point in the product life in
sales — consumer presentation.
In addition, this transformed shipping
case must be easy to open and place on the
shelf, all while being visually appealing. After
all, 90 percent of buying decisions are made
at this point in the product distribution cycle.
It truly is the big “point of sale” moment.
Unfortunately, the perception of the
shipping case continues to be viewed as
a necessary evil cost rather than a new
opportunity to shine on the shelf. This is
the last opportunity a marketer has to
outperform the competitor who has decided
the “good enough” approach would be, well,
just “good enough.”
Yes, there are demands being made by
retailers, which seem to add unnecessary
costs. But is it a cost or an opportunity?
Retailers are looking for a rapid pallet-to-
shelf display case that is easy to stock
while providing a superior shelf presence.
With all of the new graphics and
material capabilities available today for
display packaging, the opportunities to
dominate on shelf are limitless. The use of
multiple secondary packaging components
provides the marketer with the ability to
invest in the display tray with retail quality
graphics and branding.
Utilizing E-flute or paperboard display
trays maximizes the shelf appearance,
further enhancing and reinforcing the
product’s branding and quality appearance.
A separate cover or hood using natural kraft
corrugated material delivers the shipping
protection for the product and the upscale
display tray. The stocking clerk simply pops
the cover off and places the product-filled
tray on shelf, with absolutely no cutting or
tearing necessary. This prevents potential
product damage and provides a clean,
consistent, high-quality display every time.
Several real-world examples of the
conversions that are taking place right
now include products that have historically
been displayed on pegboard displays.
The opportunity for retailers to save
on the laborious effort to uncase and
stock individual packages on pegs is
the obvious first step in converting to
shelf-ready packaging. These products
include packaged cheese from sliced flow
packs, to pouches of shredded cheese. This
trend continues with bagged candies in
stand-up pouches, as well as vertical form-fill-sealed bags.
Both of these examples have resulted
in these producers moving towards more
versatile shipping cases. Branded items
tend to focus on two-part packages, which
afford the ability to use a paperboard
or e-flute display tray that accurately
represents the same color and branding
of the primary packaging. Other generic or
private label items utilize a mottled white
corrugated with flexo-printed branding.
All other standard products continue to
be packaged in kraft corrugated shipping
cases. And all of these packaging
opportunities require flexibility.
From a manufacturing perspective, end-of-line secondary packaging equipment
must also shoulder the burden of
maintaining the flexibility to run both multi-component, shelf-ready packaging, as well
as standard shipping cases for channels
that do not require the point-of-purchase
packaging. Having the manufacturing
flexibility to run multiple case formats
prevents future retailer demands from
obsoleting existing equipment.
One example of this type of flexible
system is the compact SOMIC 424
Mechatronic case packaging system. These
types of advanced case packing systems
prevent the manufacturer from being locked
into one format or the other. Additionally,
future retailer-specific ready designs of
display trays can be added as new formats
when the need arises. This becomes a
competitive advantage for the producer.
Considering the amount invested into
the development of retail packaged food
products — the marketing, the primary
packaging and the production — isn’t
that last presentation to the consumer
at the store level worth the final follow
through? The brown box today is truly
being transformed from a necessary
utilitarian shipping vehicle to a significant
While the U.S. market is still in its infancy
with retail-ready packaging, the trend
toward more shelf-ready packaging is a
reality. With European grocery chains such
as Lidl and Aldi making significant inroads in
the United States, the pressure to deliver will
continue. Those producers who are prepared
with flexible, end-of-line packaging systems
will have a distinct advantage over their
competitors who remain chained to that
little brown box.
Peter Fox is Senior Vice President of Sales
for Somic America Inc.
The New Role Of Secondary
Packaging — Retail Ready
By Peter Fox