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Featured Speaker Interview with Brent Heist, P&G

Brent Heist, Section Head of the Global Packaging Sustainability Team at Procter & Gamble shares insights into consumer experience, product formulation and the future of sustainable packaging in the cleaning products market.  

You’ve been working on developing packaging for several of P&G’s business units throughout your career. How have you seen packaging evolve over the years?

Packaging has become much more a part of the brand experience for the consumer. I’ve seen P&G’s packaging designs, and across the industry overall, take on more shape and color cues to the consumer about what the product is, what the brand does for them, and how they're going to interact with the product and the brand.

How do you see packaging continue to evolve over the next decade?

In the past decade, we’ve seen sustainability become much more of a concern and interest for consumers. Packaging is likely to continue to hold the brand communication with the consumer, but with a new language around sustainability. For example, communicating both what the package is made of, as well as how it should be treated at the end of use of the product will continue to be a factor.

How has the transition from brick & mortar to ecommerce affected packaging over the years?

It's interesting because with brick-and-mortar, the packaging is really designed to get the attention of the consumer and communicate to them very quickly what the product is. Whether it's one they are used to buying so they can find it easily in their shopping experience, or if it's a new product, or line extension to get their attention to engage with it. In e-commerce it is quite a bit different because consumers don't have that physical presence or that physical interaction with a packaging. The packaging for ecommerce really doesn't matter as much as the image and the information that is presented through the ecommerce portal. But when the consumer receives the product in many cases they are expecting the package to be the same or very similar to what they would have found in brick-and-mortar.

For example, I will talk about a personal experience I had a few years ago. I ordered batteries from ecommerce and the images online were all the store packaging / blister packs that I'm used to seeing. When the batteries arrived, there were two batteries in a small plastic bag with no label or anything on it. I didn't know if these were new batteries or used batteries or if they were counterfeit so I returned them. Consumers, while they're shopping differently on e-commerce, are still largely grounded to the brick-and-mortar experience with their packaging, and that's what they're expecting.

Has the packaging for ecommerce has affected how you are formulating products? For example, are you seeing more concentrated liquids being created?

The Tide Ecobox is a great example. With Tide Ecobox, the look of the packaging has departed from what you would see on a brick-and-mortar shelf. The Tide Ecobox is a cubic design of a box, and we also concentrated the product. Ecommerce is a format where the concentration of the product would work since it’s not on a store shelf where consumers often shop by size. We still have design cues in the packaging that relate to what the consumers would expect to see on the package if they found it on a store shelf.

How have consumers responded to the Tide Ecobox?

So far we are hearing good responses from the consumer; the comments we have received through the online e-commerce sites all indicate that consumers are very happy with the product. The consumers recognize that the product is concentrated.

What is P&G working on in regard to packaging initiatives?

Many of our packaging initiatives address our sustainability goals, which are to have 100% of our packaging recyclable or reusable by 2030 as well as increasing our use of post-consumer recycled resin in our plastic packaging. A lot of our packaging effort is around sustainability and driving that into our products, even when consumers may not recognize it – but we know that it’s the right thing to do.

Do you see the industry coming together to try to tackle these challenges and these initiatives?

I really do. We’re talking about a consumer behavior change in a lot of cases; one where consumers need to be engaged across-the-board to put these packages into a recycle bin. This is a consumer behavior change that’s needed across all the products – particularly in the cleaning products category. There are probably a lot of cleaning products that consumers don't readily recognize that the packaging can and should be recycled, because it's not like a water bottle or a beverage bottle.

What does P&G hope to achieve, and what can we see happening over the next few years with regards to the future of cleaning products packaging?

We will have 100% of our packaging to be recyclable or re-usable by 2030, and we want consumers to have access to recycling for those packages. I also expect to see more concentrated products. There may be some new forms that appear as people are looking at sustainability, not just on compaction of the product. We need to ask if there are more efficient forms of the products that would have a lower carbon footprint and be better for the environment.

Is there anything else you would like to add or bring up as an important topic to this audience?

P&G sees itself working collaboratively across the industry to create better solutions particularly around sustainability. In the cleaning products space I expect that there will need to be a lot of effort, especially on the engaging consumers with what will become a new norm in sustainable packaging. This is needed so the category can continue to grow and deliver what the consumers want in their cleaning products.