Why was the Valio Oivariini® package changed? Who came up with the idea of redesigning the cheese slice packages? Why do milk cartons have a screw-on cap? Valio packages are revamped for a number of reasons. The most important considerations are that the package protects the product and serves the consumer. Package development is very much a joint endeavour and Valio itself has an in-house package development team of five.
Package development is need driven
“Our role varies from project to project. Sometimes we take the lead and often do the bulk of the work. One of our tasks is to remind those involved of the different aspects of the project. We’re also madcap inventors who have to know how and when to let rip and question well established concepts, and present seemingly wild ideas as well as fresh insights,” say Valio’s Package Development Managers Juhana Pilkama and Kari Toikkanen of their job.
Package development is not undertaken just for the sake of it, it’s always driven by a need. The core content of Valio’s package development can be summarised in four concepts: saleability, user convenience, production perspective, and environmental soundness. These form the premise and key guidelines for package development.
“Find me, pick me, and love me! Packages have to stand out, persuade consumers to grab them, and enjoy using them. That’s what it boils down to,” says Kari.
One of Valio’s most recent package changes was implemented for Valio Oivariini®, along with other products manufactured at the Seinäjoki plant and packed in tubs. This applies to around 60 million packages per year. The starting point for the tubs revamp was a more functional, attractive and environmentally sound package.
“The revamp was initiated because the packages needed a new look, and to stand out more clearly in the shops. At the same time we reduced their environmental load. The new packages weigh less, so we’ll save around 25 tonnes of plastic per year. The tub also affords the product effective protection from light, so the product itself will keep its taste longer,” says Juhana.
Ideas from Finland and around the world
Ideas for package development are drawn from a number of sources: Valio’s plants, consumers, customers, trade fairs, dairy industry publications, and packaging machine and materials suppliers.
“Co-operation with equipment and materials suppliers is an important aspect of package development. They keep us abreast of the latest available features. The technology is in a state of continuous development, offering us new opportunities,” says Kari.
That was the case with the tubs now being used at the Seinäjoki plant. An improved package was developed with a new supplier employing new technology, and it’s now possible for instance to print high resolution pictures on packages, making them more attractive.
People have begun to understand that the biggest problem in terms of the environment is not the package itself but throwing food away.
Valio also listens closely to consumer feedback, the bulk of which is positive where packages are concerned. For example, the much talked about screw-on caps for milk cartons have been praised, although there was some criticism which held a majority in online forums. Valio conducts its own and commissions consumer surveys to determine the pros and cons of different packages. Planned package changes are also tested on consumers prior to implementation.
“Valio products are part of everyday life for Finns, so people are interested in what we do. The scale is huge - there are large numbers of products and consumers. We focus on the issues that are important and affect a great many people,” Juhana explains.
Food wastage on the agenda
The big trends in package development are at present largely related to environmental matters. Reducing food wastage is a particularly hot topic.
“People have begun to understand that the biggest problem in terms of the environment is not the package itself but throwing food away. So at Package Development we pay special attention to extending product shelf life. Offering suitable package sizes is related to the same issue. The consumer needs to be able to get the appropriate package sizes so they can consume the product before it spoils,” says Juhana.
“Of course it’s still important that packages generate as little waste as possible and create the minimum amount of environmental burden.”
Valio has paid particular attention to package recyclability and some 80% of our packages are recyclable. One of our goals is to increase the proportion of renewable materials in packages.
“User convenience is an enduring trend. Easy-to-open packages never go out of fashion. The basic features must always be right and there’s always room for improvement,” Kari adds.
Teamwork and detail
Each package development project is different. It may be a matter of fine-tuning a yoghurt cup or introducing an entirely new packaging machine. The change may be implemented instantly or span decades. The tubs revamp at the Seinäjoki plant took two years. The project involved definitions, construction work and testing.
In addition to the development team itself, package planning and implementation involves Valio staff responsible for products, plant employees, product development experts and people from e.g. Sales, Purchasing, and Legal Affairs.
“Projects comprise many phases and take in the smallest details. A number of issues and their interrelations have to be taken into account. When you’re aiming to meet one important need, you may at the same time inadvertently neglect another that’s also significant. Rarely can you start with a clean slate, so changes have to be adapted for example to an existing plant environment,” Kari explains.
A broad understanding of the food industry is a definite advantage for project members. Juhana Pilkama and Kari Toikkanen are both long-standing Valio employees. Each has several years’ experience in product development, which serves them in their current jobs, too.
“This is a hugely fascinating job. Our colleagues are great. The packaging world is one of continuous change and you’re always learning something new, so you don’t get jaded,” the package developers conclude.