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Sarang Pharate
Sarang Pharate 2 August 2018

With the Arrival of Zero Waste & Packageless Products — What Happens to Label Information & Brand Communication?

With the emergence of “Zero Waste” & "Packageless Products", brands & retailers face a dilemma on how to communicate brand & product information in the absence of traditional print packaging. The answers may lie in IoT digital twins & digital labeling

There has been visible development with regards to sustainable trends across the CPG retail industry. While individuals are becoming mindful of their lifestyles and their environmental footprints, brands are starting to take end-to-end accountability of their production habits.

The concept of zero-waste circular economy is also gaining momentum, where the focus is on refining the entire supply-chain for products. This is especially true for the CPG industry. Plastic from packaged goods, that end up in the oceans and seas, is rising at an alarming rate. As per UNEP, more than 8 million tonnes of plastic leaks into the ocean each year – equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute.

Awareness about these practices has been building for quite some time now, along with the efforts of international organizations to bring to the forefront many adversaries caused due to single-use plastic.  UN’s Clean Seas campaign and National Geographic’s multi-year campaign “Planet or Plastic” have seen worldwide participation so far including efforts from celebrities and zero waste community influencers.  

Although there has been considerable talk and awareness, we are increasingly witnessing some actionable developments in the CPG industry. With advocates, stakeholders and policymakers focusing on banning plastic alternates need to be innovated. Many organizations have tapped into this gap. Brands are innovating interesting ways to market products and their subsequent information to consumers.

Let’s take a look at the evolving face of the CPG industry.

Ditching Plastic, One Packageless Product at a Time

The Zero-Waste Shampoo Bar

Zero Waste Shampoo Bars by Lush Cosmetics (Image Source)

With an aim to serve consumers as well as the planet, Lush cosmetics has innovated package fewer shampoo bars. According to ATTN, these shampoo bars could replace the 552 million shampoo bottles we throw out annually. Each bar is the equivalent of three medium-sized shampoo bottles and serves over 80 washes.

While Lush already has an established brand presence as it caters to both online as well as brick and mortar stores, it is relatively easier for them to connect with their customers and target groups. Information about these packageless shampoo bars available on their website as well as other social media channels including Facebook.

Packageless Water – The Edible Blob

‘Ooho’ Edible Water by Skipping Rocks Labs (Image Source)

The packageless water edible blob is another great example of the growing industry of packageless products. With a goal to create a waste-free alternative to plastic bottles and cups, London based startup Skipping Rocks Labs developed the edible water bottle, Ooho which is 100% degradable and zero-waste.

There has been an interesting shift where more and more brands are ditching the plastic. But this also comes with challenges. The biggest one being, “How do you inform customers about the packageless products they are purchasing”? What about communicating our brand? What about packaging label information?

These are some of the key concerns worrying brands and manufacturers right now but all shifts need out of the box thinking and the concept of packageless and zero waste products is no different. If you can’t put your brand on the actual physical products and can’t use a printed paper-based label to communicate product content to the end consumer, the answer may lie in communicating your brand and product content digitally alongside the packageless product at the point of consideration.

Picture a consumer walking up to a shelf stacked with shampoo bars or edible water blobs at a modern-day high-tech supermarket. They pick up the product and motion sensors detect what they have picked up and pop-ups the brand along with detailed product information on a display screen in front of them before they make their purchase decision and put it in their shopping cart. Alternatively, they pull out their smartphone and scan a QR code on the shelf or tap their NFC enabled smartphones to a shelf NFC tag and consume all that the brand communicates through a digital interaction delivered to their phones.  

Everything that goes on the product’s packaging, including certifications, ingredient information, warnings, manufacturing and expiry details, etc. needs to be effectively communicated as do the manufacturer’s identity and branding. The most important task to enabling these user experiences for packageless products is, first by creating “digital twins” for these packageless products which are accessible over the internet and secondly, by extending their product related information to consumers through these digital identities.

Once that’s done, using their smartphones, customers can activate the information using triggers and devices placed in the aisles inside stores where these products are displayed, which contain the serial number or SKU details of that particular product.  For packageless products, manufacturers can deploy aisle based digital labels and QR codes. This can be made even more interesting with interactive screens to engage customers further inside stores. Once consumers scan these digital labels, it will pull up all the relevant information about the product that’s in front of them without the need for paper labels or plastic packaging.

With brands following a zero-footprint approach, even for packaging and labelling, virtual product information and activating connect smart products becomes imperative for the packageless goods industry.

The movement towards zero-waste packageless products is going to require consumers, manufacturers, brands and the packaging & labelling industry to think creatively out of the box and work together to make the shift towards the future of CPG.

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