IFST Sensory Science Group (SSG) at the 13th Pangborn Sensory Science Symposium - ‘Sensing Future Packaging Workshop’

IFST Sensory Science Group (SSG) has been lucky enough to be chosen to present an interactive workshop at the Pangborn Sensory Science Symposium at the Edinburgh International Convention Centre on 29 July 2019. The workshop was entitled ‘Sensing Future Packaging’ and was co-sponsored by the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI), Food Group.

Carol Raithatha from Carol Raithatha Limited kicked off the workshop giving a short introduction of the IFST and SCI and the importance of these two bodies for the sensory science area. Then Carol and Dr Qian Yang from the University of Nottingham, set the scene of the workshop. After showing the evolution of packaging from ancient to modern times they pointed to the significance of packaging design on influencing consumers’ purchase decisions and questioned how sensory and consumer science could contribute in this area. Carol commented on how packaging colour or packaging weight can affect the sensory perception of the products. Carol explained how in a pre-survey on 85 sensory and consumer research and related professionals, respondents were asked which sense, other than sight or touch, would they use to design a new innovative pack. 71% of the participants thought that smell would be a key sense to make the product more desirable, followed by hearing (22%) and taste (7%). Qian introduced the concept of sustainable packaging and reported that based on the Pro Carton European Consumer Packaging Perceptions study a large majority of UK consumers really want on-pack information on packaging sustainability and that this feature can affect their purchasing decision. So a sustainability would no longer be an optional in near future but will be a must-have feature for packaging. Smart (active, intelligent and interactive) packaging is also an innovative way to monitor quality of the product and communicate information with the consumer. In terms of the role of sensory and consumer science it became apparent from the pre-workshop survey that sensory and consumer scientists can utilise different methodologies to aid product packaging design with consumer testing and qualitative consumer research as the most common approaches. Qian concluded that brand, sensory features, sustainable materials and digital technologies along with design strategies and input from sensory and consumer research are important for the design of an optimum packaging.

Smart packaging engagement
Obrien Sim, PhD student at the University of Nottingham gave an interesting talk entitled: “Smart packaging engagement, a case study using coffee packs”. His overall project investigates how consumers engage with smart packaging in Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs) and the potential effects on brand relationships.
He started by defining the “Smart packaging experience” as a consumption experience facilitated by packaging that communicates or is embedded with electronics and other elements and designed to synergise with e.g. smartphone application and then he described how he conducted his study. After designing technology probes, he introduced these into the participants’ homes and monitored the interaction of the consumers and collected various data. The product used was coffee as it is widely consumed and the main information collected was how much coffee participants consumed on a daily basis but other interactive data were also gathered (e.g. time spent on each screen of the app, number of posts, likes and comments on the community, etc.). The main takeaways from Obrien’s talk were that when you design a smart packaging experience you need to be transparent with your consumers on what data you collect to avoid having a potential big data disaster, you need to ensure that the developed platform is safe and impartial and most importantly consider sustainability issues – on how these smart packaging can be reusable or recyclable.

Researching effective design & designing effective research
Greg Simmonds, formerly an Early Career Researcher from the University of Oxford, gave a fascinating talk based on the research done at the Department of Experimental Psychology’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford, in a collaboration with Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd. Greg started by introducing a game to try and understand who from the audience was the best estimator of effective design: he presented pairs of packages differing in colour, ingredient or dietary information, with images of serving portions or transparent packaging and asked questions around which packages you perceive as sweeter, healthier or tastier. The audience loved the interactive game, particularly when some answers highlighted controversial or counter-intuitive academic findings! Towards the end of the talk, Greg highlighted the importance of the collaboration of designers, commercial decision makers and academics when designing packages, in order that design is quantifiably effective for its purpose and for its customer. Greg now works for Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd as a Design and Packaging Panelling Manager.

The senses and the 5P’s of packaging
Sanjay Patel from Packaging Collective gave an inspiring talk on the 5P’s of packaging. He reminded us that 6,700,000tn of food are wasted in the UK even though these are packaged and he questioned what is our purpose, why are we here and why should anyone care for this? With a very interactive example using an IKEA tape measure (!) he demonstrated that we only have a very limited time to “do the right thing” and “make a difference for the planet”. He then talked about the importance of the senses for the packaging – the sound, the touch, the smell, the taste, and what we see but also about the 5 fundamental design principals: protect (product, user, environment), present (brand aspiration – get this right), promote, position and provide (right product, right information, how to recycle). He concluded that when we buy a product we are all responsible on how to properly discard its package and that we are certainly better off if we work together!

A branded case study: showcasing the importance of integrating sensory learnings in packaging
Christine Barnagaud, Global Sensory Qual Director at MMR Research Worldwide gave a very interesting talk on how important it is to integrate sensory learnings in the evolution of pack design. Her example was a “premium” Italian lager that was introduced in the UK market some years ago and how through revisiting iconography and visual identity, the brand managed to retain its attractive premium position in the UK market. For their study, consumers were carefully selected for their creativity and sensory acuity from within a target group and asked to go beyond the superficial appeal of the packaging in order to understand what packaging attributes really mean to them and how these are related to brand positioning. In addition to the design, the structure and the functionality of the packaging was explored by allowing consumers to handle fully mocked-up bottles. The journey of taking all these parameters into account when designing the packaging for this lager was super-exciting. The take-away messages from Christine’s fascinating presentation? Remember that packs are not just visual carriers – the recommendation is to allow for the full sensory journey to be experienced and assessed (using real stimuli as much as possible); know what are the brand messages that you want to convey so that these can be checked at every stage of the development process and finally use co-creative qualitative and quantitative techniques in order to bring consumers at the heart of the development of the packaging. 

The event was very well-attended and the attendees seemed to enjoy the presentations and the Q&A session. The results from the survey that took place prior to the workshop are published below. We hope that everyone attended found something that will help them shape the future of packaging from a sensory and consumer point of view!

Dr Stella Lignou, Sensory Science Centre - University of Reading, SSG Events

Sensing Future Packaging survey report FINAL.pdf