May 2020. A well-known Italian multinational food company and the world’s largest pasta producer, has announced the roll-out of its new, 100% recyclable packaging which has been implemented across the brand’s best-selling products, including Penne, Fusilli, Spaghetti, Lasagne, Linguine, Tortiglioni and Mezze Penne Tricolore. Consonant with the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability and guiding principle ‘Good for you, Good for the Planet’, the iconic plastic front window of their pasta boxes has been removed and replaced by a solid cardboard made of a combination of paper-based materials and 100% virgin fibres, all of which are sourced responsibly from certified sources.
“That’s brilliant, a great idea – no-brainer, really!”, someone commented. “I no longer need to rip off the plastic window when recycling”, someone else added. “This way there will be less global plastic waste and less plastic entering our oceans”, the ecologists stated. “Honestly, that’s not special at all. Isn’t it obvious that layering multiple materials hurts recycling purposes and should be avoided? This should be common sense”, another person replied. “It was about time! Many other companies made the choice not to use plastic in their packaging in the past, so this is not a pioneer!”, someone else told. “It is not actually the first time they remove plastic windows from their products. In fact, there weren’t plastic windows on their packages from 2002 to 2005. This is just historical courses and their coming back”, someone told. “A simpler packaging will save them a tonne of money, it is just a strategic move”, a voice commented. “The reality is that, without the windows, they can also put in rejects that are discoloured, misshapen, improperly mixed or bug filled. You won’t find out until you pour it into your boiling water days, weeks, months, or years after purchasing it.” another one objected. “It is only a marketing campaign to attract new customers and increase sales by acting like a company which cares about environment”, a marketer suggested. “No, quite the opposite! Their brand is so strong they don’t need a silly plastic window to show their pasta”, another marketer replied. “Although it is simple pasta, I think that in terms of buyer’s experience, this is a loss for the company compared to other brands where pasta is still visible. Good for the environment, not sure about sales…” a voice affirmed.
This is just a very limited selection of the extensive range of comments people have been making since the company made the announcement in May. We may agree with some of the above-mentioned aspects, we may strongly disagree with other points, we all of course have our own views on the matter.
However, it is not my intention here to discuss who is right and who is wrong. Instead of focusing on that, I would like to move the focus of attention to the ‘WHAT’ and the ‘WHY’. What this brand made by changing the iconic packaging of some of its best-selling products and why they made that choice.
The company made a change and decided to run the risk of making it. The risk of seeing their sales drastically plummeting, the risk of being exposed to criticism, the risk of creating customer dissatisfaction and product rejection or, even worse, the risk of losing – on a temporary or permanent basis – part of the most loyal customers underestimating the deep emotional bond that they had with the original packaging.
Far too many people and businesses prefer to ‘play it safe’ and avoid any potential risks. Far too many individuals and organisations fear the unknown, and rarely – if ever – venture outside the boundaries. But the reality is that “you cannot look in a new direction by looking harder in the same direction” as E. De Bono once said. In fact, every major step forward in history, in business, in medicine, in science, is the result of an individual or a business which was not afraid to colour outside the lines.
Taking that risk, this multinational food company made something which most individuals and companies would be afraid to make: they challenged the status quo and introduced a change.
Challenging the status quo is a challenge which requires to drastically shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset to figure out what aspects should be changed first, and then to introduce improvements, to assemble advancements and to dig deeper into development. Challenging the status quo is hard and may be scary. After all, status quo is all about doing what is comfortable and thinking inside the existing box; this is so much easier than being uncomfortable and thinking outside the box!
Let’s now move on to the ‘WHY’.
The Italian food company made this choice because that plastic window on pasta boxes was no longer in line with the company culture and commitment and, as a consequence, with what its customers would expect from the brand itself. The company realised that an adjustment to its packaging materials and manufacturing processes was therefore key to be in line with its own company culture and to deliver on the promise made to its customers.
As a company matures, so should its products and processes. This means that the original packaging you as a company once loved or the product which worked so well 15, or 10 or even 5 years ago are probably not the right fit anymore.
As amazing as your original packaging design or as innovative as your product line might have been in the past, they simply cannot keep up with the shifting times. The packaging or the product you designed in the past was fit for a different purpose, and may no longer suit the customers’ requirements or be consonant with the company culture. You need therefore to create something that works in the here and now, and suits what your customers are currently looking for. The marketplace is moving fast and customers are looking for different things now – in order to grow and thrive in the current times, companies require disrupting the status quo and tossing out the old templates.
No one can tell what the future may hold, however we all agree that both the world and the customers’ requirements are changing and evolving so quickly that it is imperative to look ahead of the change and make decisions that will reshape the offering, not just add to its past patterns.
Let’s throw our own plastic windows away, let’s think beyond.
Written by Marta Bellamoli, Marketing Co-ordinator
Ps. This is the second of a series of insights that we have been posting periodically . Stay tuned for the next episode!
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