20 May 2011

Why dont they sell toothpaste in paper bags?

New research commissioned by INCPEN sets out the reasons why goods are packaged in a particular way, and the innovative technology behind the choices.

OK, its pretty obvious that toothpaste cannot be sold in a paper bag but the way many other items are packed is less obvious.

This new report Why Products are Packaged the Way they are explains how the packaging for 12 frequently-bought items is chosen and designed to protect products and perform all the other functions expected of it.   Each product needs protection from a variety of external and internal factors such as dirt, light, moisture, oxygen, bacterial growth, temperature and physical damage.

Did you know that ground coffee packs have a valve that allows gas to escape from the pack? 

Its there because coffee needs to be packaged quickly after roasting to keep flavour in but it releases carbon dioxide which needs to be let out - or the pack would burst.  So it needs a valve.

Do you know what a tottle is?  Its an upside-down bottle designed to ensure that every last bit of product can be used.

Did you know that technology enables a crisp bag to be made of material half the thickness of a human hair and it still keep the crisps crunchy.

This report answers a number of commonly heard questions such as why breakfast cereals are not filled to the top of the box.  It shows how packaging saves far more resources than it uses and how it prevents far, far more waste than it generates.  

It explains how manufacturers and retailers precisely tailor packaging to keep products in perfect condition, to ensure they survive the journey through the supply chain and it enables consumers to receive wholesome, safe food and undamaged goods and it keeps being improved. 


Notes for editors

  1. The products examined in Why Products are Packaged the way they are are: breakfast cereal; cat food; coffee; crisps; household cleaners (trigger spray); meat; milk; salad; skincare products; soup; toothpaste; yoghurt.
  2. The average household in the UK buys over 4,000 items of food and other products every year. In the UK as a whole, 25 million households buy over 100 billion items every year. Over 75% of those purchases are grocery products mainly food and drink but also household detergents, paper products, cosmetics, toiletries, nappies and pet food.
  3. A typical UK supermarket today carries well over 50,000 product lines compared with only 2,000 in the 1960s. These products have to survive the journey from farm or factory irrespective of which part of the world that is in - and reach the consumer undamaged, unspoilt and fit for purpose.
  4. Most goods need to be packed in sales (or primary) packaging to protect and contain them the tin of soup, the glass jar of jam, the box of cereals or the plastic bottle of washing up liquid for example. This is the packaging that appears on the shop shelf but cans, bottles and fresh fruit and vegetables cannot be put loose into a lorry so secondary packaging such as cardboard boxes, plastic wrapping and trays are used to group them during distribution. These in turn are stacked on pallets or trolleys to allow them to be transported in bulk, stacked in depots and stored in hot and cold climates.
  5. Packaging for food and drink accounts for 87% by weight of all sales packaging.  Packaging is an integral and essential part of the industrial and commercial supply chain. It protects goods from damage, allows efficient transport distribution, offers convenience, prolongs shelf-life and enables easy handling and use.

Sales packaging by type of product
percent by weight of all sales packaging, 2007

Home and Interior


Education,  Recreation, Transport


Clothing, Personal and Home Care


Food & Drink


INCPEN The Industry Council for Packaging & the Environment - is a research organisation set up in 1974 to study the environmental and social impact of packaging. It draws together an influential group of companies that operate throughout the supply chain and share a common interest in packaging, the environment and sustainable development.

More information 07788724817, 0118 9255992