Lessons from the Market: Packaging

Based on his extensive retail travels the last two years, Jerry Montgomery digs into packaging: why growers should invest in it, what a good investment entails and an example other growers could follow:

During our travels to numerous garden centers, we paid a lot of attention to packaging and tried to evaluate the visual appeal as it related to merchandising and, in general, the visual impact on various product displays. Clearly, product displays that had colorful, upgraded packages were visually more compelling and drew the attention of the shoppers.

In the grocery industry, generic products are the fastest growing as consumers look for more value and can be more easily swayed to abandon the purchase of some of their preferred brands. Recently there has been a concerted effort by supermarkets to get manufacturers of generic products to upgrade the packaging to attract more impulse purchases.

In our industry, the preponderance of the units sold are generic with little attention paid to packaging other than lowering the input cost. The fact is a large portion of the items we sell don’t look the same as when we saw them in the production greenhouses, while most producers actually believe they are putting “wow” products on the shelves of retailers.

Many have said: “Our products are so beautiful we don’t need to invest in packaging.” How wrong they are. In visiting hundreds and hundreds of retail outlets in the past two years, I can assure you there are few beautiful plants offered at retail that can’t be outsold by a well packaged beauty.

What’s In It For The Grower To Invest In Packaging?

- Increased sales velocity
- Reduction of discards
- Protect and/or increase gross margins
- Repeat customers will return to the stores you service
- Build a sustainable competitive advantage–keep out the competition

An Upgraded Label Is Not A Package

We have heard label manufacturers talk about being approached by customers who want an upgraded package but only want to improve the label. Labels that are more colorful and contain more information can be helpful but can’t compare to a totally integrated package that commands the immediate attention of the consumer.

Impact Of The Right Carrying Trays

In a number of cases, we have seen packages that include attractive containers, upgraded labels and then placed in a shuttle tray virtually hides the container and ruins the visual impact. Low-profile trays create more visual reveal and maximize the potential impact.

What Is A Good Consumer Package?

A high-impact ornamental consumer plant package does not have to be an artistic masterpiece but contains the following elements: a pot, a tag and a tray that have complimentary colors and present the plant product as one well-thought-out presentation. Of course, trays are not used with all plant products.

- A container that has a reasonable amount of visual impact-preferably a colored container that compliments the label.
- A label size that is not overwhelmed by the container size. In other words, a proportionally sized label for the container.
- A consumer compelling label that is colorful and has visual and informational interest, and has a call to action like a website.
- A program or product name that is descriptive (i.e. Colors of Coleus, below). However, a well-put-together plant package does not have to be a brand. It is just good packaging.
- A label that has a website reference.
- A plant that is the right size for the container.
- A plant that has enough flowers to compliment the package that creates an immediate impulse to buy.

Here is an example of a generic coleus program (Colors of Coleus) that is eye catching and, according to several growers, has been very successful:

There was not much added cost to create the Colors of Coleus program. Our estimate is around 10 cents with an upgraded label and a colored container. At retail, it clearly attracted the attention of many consumers and is a great example of adding consumer packaging to a generic SKU.

Locking Labels

Some branded products use locking labels that ensure the label not only stays with the container, but also displays it more prominently. Proven Winners is an example, as well as the Lowe’s Garden Club Select brand. Locking labels comes at an additional cost of insertion because it is a separate manual function that many growers don’t like. When visiting garden centers this type of package is far more attractive and will not degrade over time with consumers taking the labels in and out of the container. A plant without a label is not a salable product.

Summary

In today’s competitive world, the cost of inputs is a significant investment and it is understandable why many companies don’t consider an investment in packaging a worthy endeavor. These same companies also are challenged with controlling discards, increasing same store sales and more demanding retailers. Still, packaging can be an essential tool in overcoming these challenges.

Glancing at packaging leaders, it seems there are some interesting lessons to learn when you look at the success of the Wave brand with its signature pink packaging that clearly is a critical element of the brand’s success. Proven Winners is one of the most interesting and recognizable consumer brands that include a logo container, large labels and a coordinated tray that is synchronized so the logo is always visible.

Packaging is an investment that can garner great returns, and there is enough evidence in the market from those who have used it successfully and profitably that these investments continue to pay off.

About the author: Jerry Montgomery is a 40-year veteran of the floriculture industry and has worked for distributor companies, breeders and large growers specializing with a focus on sales and marketing. As an industry consultant, he works for large growers, distributors and breeder/producers. His focus is to understand the market dynamics from breeder to consumer through intense retail travel, visiting almost 1,500 stores since January 2008.

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