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British Food Journal

The role of packaging within marketing and value creation

Bo Rundh,
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Bo Rundh, (2016) "The role of packaging within marketing and value creation", British Food Journal,
Vol. 118 Issue: 10, pp.2491-2511,
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The role of packaging within Packaging

marketing and value creation marketing and
value creation
Bo Rundh
Department of Business Administration, Karlstad Business School, 2491
Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden
Received 29 October 2015
Revised 17 May 2016
Abstract Accepted 17 May 2016
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the importance of innovative packaging for
marketing purposes in a food supply chain. The intent is also to understand the function of packaging
as a marketing tool. The outcome of the study is expected to contribute to the link between packaging
and marketing literature.
Design/methodology/approach – The case study method was chosen in order to assess and
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investigate how packaging can be used in marketing. The study focuses on narrating the use of
packaging for different customer applications and the unit of analyses was the packaging product.
In order to analyse the five sub-cases or “corporate stories” a cross-case analysis was used and the
analysis of data was carried out in different stages. This approach treats each sub-case as a separate
entity and the analysis reveal both similarities and differences among the sub-cases.
Findings – The present study demonstrates that packaging has become an important tool in
marketing of different products either this is for end-consumers, or customers in a supply chain.
This has become more essential as more products are introduced on a market. The study shows the
significance of linking packaging to marketing strategy. An important ingredient for that is the use
of packaging design for differentiation purposes. The results support also that packaging has
become an essential factor for a secure and efficient distribution in a food supply chain. In addition,
packaging and packaging design is contributing to value creation for different actors in a food
supply chain.
Practical implications – The managerial implication from the case study shows that packaging can
be used together with the product concept to create a competitive offering in a market. This gives
managers the possibility to differentiate their products from competitive offerings by using packaging
and packaging design in a creative manner.
Originality/value – This paper fulfils an identified need for contributions to more research on
packaging and marketing strategy. The study shows the influence of packaging on marketing.
Keywords Marketing, Marketing mix, Packaging
Paper type Case study

The modern consumer requires a wide range of products to meet the needs of a
multifaceted lifestyle and food items is one of them. A study by INCPEN (2011) shows
that an average household in UK buys more than 4,000 items of food and other related
products every year and a typical supermarket can carry more than 50,000 product
lines. Since many of these items need to be packed in sales packaging (primary) to
protect and contain them, the demand for effective packaging has increased.
A secondary packaging (cardboard boxes; plastic wrapping; trays) is also used to
group and protect goods during distribution in a supply chain. Customer
requirements have emerged from a fact of increased damages and that products
ought to be packaged that its content is not damaged before it arrives to a British Food Journal
Vol. 118 No. 10, 2016
pp. 2491-2511
The author is grateful for the financial support from Elof Hanssons Stiftelse for fulfilling this © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
research and to two anonymous reviewers’ comments to this paper. DOI 10.1108/BFJ-10-2015-0390
BFJ final destination. An increasing value of packaging and packaging design has also
118,10 been recognized for marketing purposes in generating sales at the point of purchase
(Schoormans and Robben, 1997; Orth and Malkewitz, 2008). This requires different
types of packaging materials and solutions depending on the product and physical
conditions during transport and distribution in a local market (e.g. for export of food
items). However, packaging and packaging design’s strategic role in marketing has
2492 only been recognized in the academic literature in recent years. Azzi et al. (2012) has
in a study presented a framework of packaging design based on a literature review
with the purpose to improve supply chain efficiency. The outcome from that study
resulted in a conceptual framework and drivers behind integrated packaging design.
The researchers concluded that packaging design needs to “comprise between all
major packaging functions” and considering the role of packaging in a more
systematic approach. More research is therefore needed to improve our knowledge
about the dimensions of packaging and its role in creating positive customer
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perceptions. We therefore address a research gap about the influence of packaging in

relation to the marketing concept. The main purpose with this paper is to explore the
importance of innovative packaging for marketing purposes in a food supply chain.
The intent is also to understand the function of packaging as a marketing tool. The
outcome of the study is expected to contribute to a link between packaging and
marketing literature. Packaging and distribution of different products has also been
simplified and more efficient by packaging innovations (e.g. Tetra Pak) in the supply
chain. Active packaging solutions have also been developed in order to meet
customer demands for storage and food safety (Singh et al., 2011). Clever designs of
packaging and using computer design (software) can provide supplier’s solutions to
maximize the number of packaged products per pallet and container load in relation
to the final destination. New solutions with shrink-wrapping have served both to
protect goods against damage, as well as to diminish the risk of theft. Another
important issue for packaging is for differentiation purposes in marketing working as
a communicator in the sales outlet. Even though packaging has previously been
treated as a part of the product concept it has nowadays become an important
variable in marketing strategy. From a consumer perspective packaging has become
even more important since it is often the first thing a customer will see before it
makes its first selection in a supermarket (Ampuero and Vila, 2006). The role of
packaging has also increased as competition of shelf space has become more
important in attracting attention of a product and causing a purchase in a
supermarket. This paper will therefore discuss the importance of packaging and its
role within marketing and value creation. The rest of the paper is organized as
follows. In the next section the theoretical points of departure are discussed followed
by the research method. In the next section the findings are discussed and the last
section contains the discussion and conclusions from the study.

Literature review
In marketing literature, marketing strategy has been researched by many scholars
(e.g. Greenley, 1993; Slater and Olson, 2001; Hult and Ferrell, 2012; Varadarajan,
2011). Day (1994) argues that a sound understanding of a market allow firms to
develop strategies and capabilities that “respond to market requirements and
anticipate changing conditions” (p. 37). This knowledge is received from a thorough
assessment of market needs about the use of products and services provided which
enables firms to develop a competitive advantage and profitability in the long run.
A marketing tool contributing to achieve firms’ marketing objectives and customer Packaging
satisfaction in the food sector is packaging: within
Many authors emphasize the importance of packaging in business strategy (e.g. Rundh, 2005), and marketing and
the role of packaging in industrial management continues to rise due to increased logistic costs, value creation
improved packaging technology and enhanced environmental regulation (Azzi et al., 2012, p. 435).
Especially when addressing primary packaging, there is no doubt that the function is 2493
primarily marketing related, with the goal of creating and conveying brand impressions and
forming consumers perceptions of specific products (Azzi et al., 2012, p. 435).
Kotler and Keller (2006) are arguing that since the majority of all purchases decisions
are made on impulse, “the effective package must perform many of the sales tasks:
attract attention, describe the product’s features, create consumer confidence, and make
a favourable overall impression” (p. 393). Beside the increasing importance of self-
service, consumer affluence, company and brand image, innovative packaging can
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contribute to benefits for consumers and profit to actors in a supply chain. Products
reaching, or aimed for other markets than the domestic market, is even accumulating
other factors that need to be considered from a packaging and marketing point of view.
These factors can involve the export packaging, or to fulfil requirements from partners
in a supply chain. End-customers can also have packaging requirements that need to be
considered from suppliers upstream the supply chain, since consumers have become
more concerned about the amount of packaging, material used and whether it can
be recycled or reused. Due to lower incomes smaller pack sizes are also needed to make
products affordable in emerging markets, whereas “green issues” are playing a greater
role in consumers’ purchase decisions in more developed markets (Brown, 2008). At the
same time multinational firms are aiming to standardize packaging systems worldwide
(OMAC Packaging Workgroup, 2007). The international marketing literature is also
adding dimensions of making business in different business environments. Many
attempts have also been made to review and assess the extant research on international
marketing (Leonidou et al., 2010). A market entry often requires a thorough analysis and
screening procedure before a firm can enter a local export market (Douglas and Craig,
2011). Such analysis should also include packaging requirements since packaging has
become an important tool in firms’ marketing activities and need to be adapted in relation
to cultural factors in a local market, e.g. colour, labelling and information.

Packaging in a food supply chain

Attractive and functional packaging has become an important competitive advantage
in any food supply chain. Packaging (tertiary and primary) provides protection,
tampering resistance and diverse physical and biological needs during distribution in a
supply chain. It is also providing information to consumers about product content
(e.g. labels) and other kind of information (e.g. printed instructions about product use or
disposal of a product). The multi-function of different packaging solutions is also
dependent on the particular supply chain which has undergone tremendous changes.

A food supply chain

Previously a food supply chain was regionally and limited to a small area consisting of
small- and medium-sized firms. The logistic system was fragmented with primarily
regional and local reach (Lee et al., 2012). A further globalization with an increased
competition and concentration of primarily retailers has driven the food industry into a
BFJ pressure for a cost reduction throughout the food supply chain (Lee et al., 2012). The
118,10 effects of this globalization have contributed to the development of new supply chain
models within the food industry. “ ‘The model moved beyond regional to include global
participation for importing (to reduce costs) and exporting (to generate revenues) in all
levels of the chain. The typical buying organizations are large, vertically integrated
multinationals with huge product diversity and a focus on low cost and efficiency’ […]
2494 ‘More than 80 percent of food sales are delivered via this model, and participating
organizations consist of large publicly traded or privately held business with both
national and global reach’ ” (Roth et al., 2008, p. 24).

Requirements on packaging solutions in a food supply chain

An increased globalization within the food industry has also driven actors within a
supply chain to search for more efficient logistics and packaging has become an
important ingredient to protect and market food products. A main function of
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packaging is physical protection during transport (shock, vibration, temperature) but

also to product food by barrier protection keeping the content clean, fresh and safe for
the intended shelf life. Another objective is containment to group small items in to one
package to allow efficient handling in the supply chain. Packages can also include
different solutions for security reasons (anti-theft devices such RFID tags or seals to
help indicate counterfeit). Packaging design and communication can be used to
encourage potential buyers to purchase the product at the point of sale. Suitable
packages can also be designed for the individual household, whereas printed
information on the package or by labels can inform the consumer how to use, recycle or
dispose the product and the package (Figure 1).

Packaging and the product concept

A product is often considered as something that is tangible and can be described in terms
of physical attributes in the marketing literature. The product concept is often described
in form of physical attributes such as form, dimension, components, and shape and so on.
On the other hand Onkvisit and Shaw (2009) argue that “in many situations both tangible
and intangible products must be combined to create a single, total product. Perhaps the
best way to define a product is to describe it as a bundle of utilities or satisfaction”
(p. 333). In this context packaging is considered as a part of the product concept.
However, another research direction has found out that packaging is adding value
and has become an important marketing variable in itself for purposes of information
and communication, differentiation and brand building (Nancarrow et al., 1998).

Packaging design

Design Studios

Supplier of Filler and

packaging Food Retailer
material Processor

Figure 1.
Packaging in a food
supply chain Converting
Logistics and transport packaging
The original function of packaging is changing and it is now used as an important Packaging
marketing tool to attract attention, describe the product and its content, and make the within
sale of a product. Simms and Trott (2010) argue that a new conceptual thinking is
necessary in relation to “the generation of new product opportunities through packaging”
marketing and
(p. 398). value creation

Packaging 2495
The main function of packaging is to protect the content from losing its function that a
product is intended for. The package should be able to protect the content either it is a
food item that need to be fresh and keep its flavour, or another consumer product such
as toothpaste. Protection include many functions depending on the product area such
as protecting the product from shock and vibration, e.g. for consumer electronics,
keeping the content stable from temperature changes during transport, or clean and
sterile from influences in the environment. This requires that the decision maker
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consider the materials needed in the package in order to take into account the logistic
function and the transit conditions for the package during its transport in the supply
chain. The length and time of the distribution will obviously influence the choice of
material. A second important function of packaging is the necessity to inform and
promote the content in the package in a local market. This requires that the package
has the necessary information about the content, but also that the language and texture
is understandable in a local market. Colour and graphics has a significant role in the
international marketing in relation to a local cultural context (Aslam, 2006). Colour and
graphics can together be the tools that differentiate the product from its competitors
(Schmahl, 2011). Another important aspect is the shape of the package for
differentiation purposes which is used, e.g. in the cosmetic industry and by
pharmaceutical companies. A third important area for managers developing packaging
is user convenience. Packages can be developed to have features which add
convenience within the distribution but also for opening, during its use and for
reclosing the package. This can add value for the end-consumer, e.g. in the form of
being easier to carry from the store, or for storing in a refrigerator. A fourth area that
can be added is the environmental issues in relation to choice of packaging material,
customer’s possibilities to re-use the package and the disposal of the package. All these
requirements have forced packaging developers, logistic functions and marketing
managers to consider and re-consider their packaging solutions. Either this refers to the
primary or secondary packaging, or a tertiary packaging in the form of a special
packaging solution that is necessary for a distant export market.

Packaging and marketing

Packaging plays an important role in marketing and can help brand owners and other
actors to create a unique position in the marketplace. Previous research shows that
packaging can influence consumers’ perceptions and evaluation of products (Rettie and
Brewer, 2000; Raghubir and Greenleaf, 2006) and can be used to get their attention
(Underwood et al., 2001). This gives managers a possibility to differentiate their
products from competitive offerings by using packaging design in a creative manner.
Packaging design can be used to utilize the package’s material, shape, colour, branding
and dimension to make attraction and inform the customer to make a decision in the
store or in a retail outlet (Rettie and Brewer; 2000; Rundh, 2009; Azzi et al., 2012). This
has become a necessity in relation to the individual consumer who has varied and even
BFJ conflicting preferences and desires, but also have an interest in trying new tastes and
118,10 new experiences. Within the Fast Moving Goods (FMCG) industry, brand owners
introduce more than thousand new products each month on the shelves in British
supermarkets (Nancarrow et al., 1998; Simms and Trott, 2010). Design of the primary
packaging is evidently important since this package function as “a silent salesman” in a
store and should not only protect the content but also inform and persuade the
2496 consumer to make the final decision in a self-service system. However, a secondary
package does not only function during the transport for collecting the primary
packaging, but can also function in the store for display purposes. A unique and
attractive package is a necessity. The designer can, e.g. work with the visibility of a
package via its material, shape, colour and graphics since modern printing technology
offers new opportunities for a creative design. At the same time it is necessary to
consider the increasing environmental issues rose in relation to the use of packaging.
Visibility. Material. A designer has the possibility to use materials for a package to a
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certain limit since the material itself has its limits, but also depending on the
characteristics of the packaged product. In this context we are mainly discussing
packages based on board material which is renewable and can be recycled.
New development of pulp has increased the possibilities to build a packaging board
with different properties depending on the end-use of the material. Combinations with
other materials and coating and lamination have also increased the possibilities to use
board materials for packages of liquid products. The coated substances can protect the
product against light, oxygen, humidity, grease and heat. The selection of the right
material and coating not only protect the product but can even save material, improve
printability, seal ability, simplifies the converting and packaging and reduces waste
(Stora Enso, 2011, 2013a, b). Underwood et al. (2001) argue also that visuals on the
package can be of strategic importance for differentiation purposes since pictures are
more effective stimuli compared to words.
Shape. Another important tool for a designer and the marketer is the shape of the
package. A design of a visionary package can have many influences and an important
one for packages has been the inspiration from art, or from the product history (e.g.
Absolut Vodka). The shape of the package can attract customer attention, but it is also
important for how it can be transported in the secondary packaging. A flat package can
save space on a pallet and in a container (compare, e.g. IKEA packaging solutions).
Choosing the right size and shape of a package in relation to material used can cut
logistic costs considerably in a supply chain.
Colour. There is probably no other tool in the package design that can influence the
consumer’s mind more than the colour on the package. Colour is a powerful tool that
can identify a brand or tell us something about the nature of the product. A colour can
also have a cultural association and evoke emotional reactions (Madden et al., 2000).
Colour is therefore often used for marketing purposes to denote product categories,
cultural meanings and emotional associations (Aslam, 2006; Singh, 2006). When
determining possible colour options managers need to consider the meaning of
different colours in relation to the cultural context in a local export market.
Graphics. The graphic design process of a package is complex and requires different
skills and creativity as well as technical expertise. It also requires an understanding of
a client’s product and target market (BillerudKorsnäs, 2011). This is translated and
visualized by a combination of shape, colour, typography and printing technology into
the available space on the package. The graphics need to support the information and
promotion efforts to the ultimate customer. The idea with opening design studios Packaging
within a company is also to let the customer to come closer to the design process and within
speed up the process as a whole. “Besides making the packaging design process easier,
during the Design studio workshop we can tell the customer what kinds of materials we
marketing and
can use and how packaging in general can be produced” (Sillanpää, 2012, p. 58). value creation
Environmental issues and sustainability. New environmental issues and
requirements for sustainability has also put a pressure on suppliers to meet such 2497
demands. The environmental issues refer to customers use and disposal of the package,
or packaging material. Recycling or re-use of packaging material has become on all
managements agenda (e.g. European Union Packaging Directive; European Union,
2006). A firm’s marketing efforts is also depending on management’s ability to assess
external trends and use its resources and capabilities in an efficient way. At the same
time packaging innovation must also meet ethical standards in the society (Bone and
Corey, 2000; Vernuccio et al., 2010).
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Communication. Creating visibility is not enough for achieving a decision to

purchase and a package must obviously have a meaningful message to get the
attention and engagement from consumers. The content of the communication becomes
a balance between functional messages and visual effects in order to create
differentiation to competing products on a shelf. Attention grabbing messages can
involve the launch of a new or modified product concept; a change in product content,
or that the firm is selling for a lower price. It can also be a claim about the product
ingredients (natural ingredients), where it is manufactured, or the outcome of using the
product. To reach a positive reaction from a customer is more likely to result in a desire
to engage with the product concept. Silayoi and Speece (2007) argue also that a package
becomes a critical factor in the purchase decision when a consumer is undecided since a
well-designed package communicates at the decision-making time. Marketing
communication research highlights also packaging’s ability to communicate with
consumers (Nancarrow et al., 1998; Underwood and Ozanne, 1998) and how it can be
used to get attention among consumers, e.g. by Underwood et al. (2001). Whereas the
brand management literature emphasize the importance of packaging for brand
purposes as argued by Underwood and Klein (2002) and Underwood (2003).
Functionality. The functionality of a package has become even more essential when
customers are searching for convenience in the shopping process and at home. At the
same time it is necessary that the package is suitable in relation to the size of the
household ((The) Packaging Federation, 2004). The package must also be suitable for
transport and storage in a supply chain.
Saleability. An attractive package with a high functionality can also improve the
possibilities for closing a sale in comparison with competing products. An increasing
number of products are also sold on a self-service basis. A package must therefore
have enough impact on the shelf among a myriad of competing packages. This can be
achieved by packaging design and an effective choice of shape, colour, copy, logo and
other visual features. The package and its design need to; attract the buyer; to
communicate a message; to create a desire for the product and to sell the product. The
package design and communication need also to show the intended use of the
product, method of application and intended results but even create a desire for
repeat purchases. “Today’s shopper is more empowered than ever before to make
educated and responsible buying decisions, but surprisingly it turns out that more
shoppers are utilizing in-store marketing and branding cues to make an
BFJ overwhelming portion of their purchase decisions” ((The) Point of Purchase
118,10 Advertising International, 2012). As 76 per cent of purchase decisions occur in the
store, packaging has an important impact on the purchase decision ((The) Point
of Purchase Advertising International, 2012). Packaging’s importance at the point of
sale has also been discussed, e.g. by Wells et al. (2007) and can hence improve a firm’s
product sales as argued by Simms and Trott (2010).
2498 Value creation by packaging. Previous research has recognized that packaging can
be a possible source of competitive advantage (Nancarrow et al., 1998; Rundh, 2005).
However, emphasis on different functional aspects is not sufficient for the use of, or
introduction of a new package, or packaging material. A supplier or brand owner must
also understand what type of value a particular package can bring to actors in a supply
chain and their own value creation processes. For brand owners packaging can be a
basis for differentiation and brand building, whereas convenience is more important for
other actors. The concept of value has also been of interest for many researchers
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(e.g. Woodruff, 1997; Payne et al., 2008) and some agree that customer perceived value
may be defined as a ratio of customer perceived benefits vs sacrifices in relation to a
supplier’s offering (Ulaga, 2001). Niemelä-Nyrhinen and Uusitalo (2013) argue that
designing value offerings by packaging obviously require an understanding of
customers’ value creation processes and value perceptions in a supply chain.

Packaging design
During the development of new packaging solutions it is valuable to employ a customer
orientated way of thinking. A strict emphasis on a material or a new technology is not
sufficient to create and implement a solution to customers (Hakola, 2013). An important
aspect is to understand how customers are using the product and what type of value a
new packaging solution can bring to customers. Material suppliers are therefore
inviting brand owners and packaging specialists to participate in the design of a new
package. This can be in the form of workshops or brainstorming meetings. Suppliers
have also built special design studios where they can show packaging solutions from
other branches, but even show how a new packaging design can fit into a shelf in
relation to competing products. Eye-tracking techniques are also used to better
understand consumer reactions and attraction to a new package.

Marketing capability
The packaging sector is undergoing a radical change. The pressure from brand owners to
introduce new packaging solutions to the market is greater than ever. There is a great need
for innovation (Aho, 2011 p. 6).
Our world has become centred on brand owners. Most of the incentives and inquires we
receive come from large and smaller companies specialising in the marketing and
manufacture of consumer products. Traditional sales negotiations have turned into inspiring
and professionally challenging brainstorming sessions where people come together to seek
new packaging and logistics solutions for the years in the future (Aho, 2011 p. 6).
Capabilities are often developed within a firm’s functional areas or by combining
different types of resources at the corporate level but, resources alone are not sufficient
to create a competitive advantage (Teece et al., 1997). It is rather the ways in which they
are applied through management processes that can develop them into an advantage.
The importance of resources and capabilities has also received much research interest
in the marketing literature (Day and Wensley, 1988; Day, 1994, 2011; Leiblein and Packaging
Reuer, 2004). In previous research scholars have argued that marketing capabilities are within
fundamental to the firm’s success either this is in domestic or international markets
(Murray et al., 2011). These capabilities are the organizational processes where
marketing and
resources are combined and transformed in to value offerings, resulting in firms’ value creation
competitive advantages (Murray et al., 2011). Day and Wensley (1988) consider in their
framework that competitive advantages can be reached by either having: a lower 2499
relative cost position, or a superior customer value/brand position. A superior customer
value by differentiation is reached when a firm is able to develop and create, e.g. a
packaging solution in a supply chain that is perceived as being unique in relation to
competitive offerings. Murray et al. (2011) argues that “a differentiated position is an
advantage due to the increase in brand loyalty by customers and their resulting lower
price sensitivity” (p. 255). The possibility to use packaging as a device for
differentiation or saving costs in a supply chain creates opportunity for creating
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competitive advantages in relation to competitive offerings. Firms with marketing

capability can effectively develop and manage new solutions to meet customers’ needs
either this is in a domestic or export market (Table I).
The framework presented here implies that packaging can be of importance
for a firm’s marketing strategy and that a competitive advantage can be reached
by developing innovative packaging solutions in relation to actors in a food
supply chain.

Based on the discussion of marketing and packaging literature above, two areas
emerge as of interest for further research and development of propositions. The first
relates to the area of packaging and marketing strategy and the second to the
importance of packaging for value creation. These propositions combine supplier and
customer perspectives in a marketing context.

Marketing variable Marketing capability

Product and product Management’s ability to assess and develop products in relation to
development customer needs is a key ingredient to reach a competitive edge. Packaging
can contribute to improve the product concept by achieving competitive
advantage in relation to competitive offerings
Pricing Differentiation by packaging gives opportunity to avoid customer
sensitivity to pricing tactics
Communication by Packaging can contribute in communication with customers by its shape
design, shape and colour and design of the package. A distinctive and eye catching appearance at
point of sales (POS) improve a positive respond
Distribution and supply Effective packaging solutions add value to the physical flow in a supply
chain chain and contribute to more cost efficient solutions to diverse actors
Environmental issues Creative packaging can reduce the amount of packaging and contribute to
the disposal of the product
Value Packaging is an excellent way to communicate sophistication and
positioning of the product and thereby create value in customers mind
Additional benefits As a gift or using the package for something else after the product has
been consumed
Innovation Unique and unusual packaging solutions can contribute to a mature Table I.
products sale. Innovative packages can attract new segments on a market Marketing capability
BFJ Propositions related to marketing strategy
118,10 P1. The importance of packaging has become more essential for differentiation
purposes as more products are introduced on a market.
P2. Packaging and packaging design has become an essential tool in a firm’s
marketing strategy (to communicate; differentiate and for targeting purposes).
P3. The importance of using packaging for marketing purposes requires an
insightful marketing capability within a firm.
The propositions related to value creation emphasize the increased importance of
packaging for securing an efficient distribution in relation to different actors in a food
supply chain. At the same time modern packaging design can also contribute by
attracting and communicating with customers at the sales outlet and thereby offering
a possibility for value creation in relation to competing offerings. The importance of
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packaging design is also, e.g. in line with the findings of Azzi et al. (2012). For brand
owners packaging is a basis for innovative solutions and a possible source for
creating competitive advantage.
Propositions related to value creation
P4. Packaging has become an essential factor for efficient and secure distribution in
a food supply chain.
P5. Packaging and packaging design contribute to value creation for different
actors in a food supply chain.
We address these issues by examining the role of packaging in two different areas.
The first one concerns four packaging solutions for food products, whereas the second
is for a fashion product. The main reason for this is to make a contrast of products and
customers using them.

Research method
When the phenomenon of interest is new and complex, extant theories may not be
available to explain the situation or, identify relevant variables influencing the
situation. The increasing importance of packaging and packaging design in marketing
is such phenomenon. In this situation Golic and Davis (2012) argues that a qualitative
approach is suitable since it can be a starting point “in order to build an understanding
grounded in a detailed description of the phenomenon by collecting field data.
The qualitative approach provides researchers with deeper levels of understanding of
new or complex phenomena by yielding a high level of detail” (p. 732). The empirical
findings in this paper are based on the case study research method in accordance with
Yin (2009) and Eisenhardt (1991). The case study method was chosen in order to assess
and investigate how packaging can be used in marketing. The study focuses on
narrating the use of packaging for different customer applications.

Case selection
The case for this research was selected on the basis of purposive sampling (Patton,
2002). Purposive sampling enables the selection of cases that are particularly
informative in relation to the research question (Patton, 2002). One rational for selecting
a single case design rather than a multiple design is when the case represents Packaging
something that is extreme or unique (Yin, 2009): within
In a single-case study, the challenge of presenting rich qualitative data is readily addressed by marketing and
simply presenting a relative complete rendering of the story within the text. The story value creation
typically consists of narrative that is interspersed with quotations from key informants and
other supporting evidence (Eisenhardt and Graebner, 2007, p. 29).
The case firm in this study was selected on the basis of that is a global actor in the
packaging industry and has a history of innovative packaging solutions. The company
made also an acquisition in 2006 to overcome more innovative products. This
background resulted in the selection of a single information rich case with the
possibility to use sub-cases or embedded cases within the single case as discussed by
Carson et al. (2001) (Figure 2).
In this case study we use “corporate stories” or short narratives as embedded cases
as suggested by Yin (2009). In this context each narrative is representing a different
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packaging solution for a customer in a supply chain. This will also be used for
analytical purposes. In an embedded case study design several data sources are
recommended which are discussed below (Yin, 2009).

Data collection in the case study

An important issue of the case study method is the possibility to use different sources
of data as evidence in a case story. Data for the case study were collected from internal
reports, internet documents and personal interviews. Another source was field
observations made at mill level, but also at packaging exhibitions. We have also
interviewed the communication manager and sales people at five packaging
exhibitions (EasyFair 2010, 2011, 2014 and Scanpack 2012, 2015). An important
ingredient in the case study was the possibility to use embedded cases in the format of
“corporate stories” from the company. The use of corporate stories has been discussed
among several scholars (Benjamin, 2006; Denning, 2006; Marzec, 2007; Yolles, 2007).
The different kinds of information have provided us with data for developing the case
study. The single case study consists of five embedded “corporate stories” that
constitutes the basis of the empirical findings. Furthermore, we have interviewed
the communications manager three times and two sales people at each



Embedded unit of
analysis 1

Figure 2.
Type of case study
Source: Adapted after Yin (2009)
BFJ packaging exhibition. Together with other archival data this has provided us with an
118,10 extensive basis of data for developing this case. We also relay on experience and
literature within the packaging area in order to present evidence in different forms
using interpretations and measurements as this case relates to how packaging is
influencing marketing, rather than a specific management problem. Each corporate
story (narrative) has been selected carefully in order to predict different packaging
2502 solutions (Table II).

Case analysis
In all phases of a case development process different sources of data have to be
integrated to form the case format (Yin, 1994). For this purpose a case study database
was used. In this study interviews have been combined with narratives and internal
documents to make a triangulation possible. When the case information was collected
an in-depth analysis of the different data took place with a cross-analysis of the
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interviews to identify similar constructs and themes. The results from this first stage were
compared with corporate documents and external information and field observations.
This formed the basis for the case story. In the next stage the narratives or “corporate
stories” were developed leading to embedded cases. In an embedded case study design the
unit of analysis is critical (Yin, 2009). In this study the unit of analyses was the packaging
product. In order to analyse the five sub-cases or “corporate stories” a cross-case analysis
was used and the data analysis was carried out in different stages. This approach treats
each sub-case as a separate entity and this analysis can reveal both similarities and
differences among the sub-cases (Yin, 2003). The sub-cases were then interpreted and
summarized forming supplier and customer perspectives in a marketing context.

Quality criteria in the case study

There is a long tradition in business marketing research to use a qualitative approach
with cases studies since the method suits the study of relationships and interactions in
business markets. This exists particularly in a supply chain context. However, there is
no single design for conducting a case study which accentuates the quality criteria of a
study (Beverland and Lindgren, 2010). Even though the research method has followed
a design as suggested by Yin (2009) there are quality criteria that need to be addressed.
One criterion of quality in case study research is validity and refers to the degree to
which a study supports conclusions drawn from the results (Yin, 2009). Construct
validity refers to the process of developing operational measures for terms and
concepts being studied. In order to improve the construct validity in this research the

Sources used in this

Data collection Description case study

Archival records Internal documents; annual reports |

Field observation Visit at the mill; 5 packaging exhibitions |
Documents Leaflets; video clips; charts |
Personal interviews 10 interviews with sales people and 3 interviews with |
communication manager
Table II. Narratives Corporate stories |
Data collection Retailers Visit at 2 retailer chains |
in the case study Case study database For organizing information from different data sources |
use of multiple sources of data were used. The evidence came from interviews, Packaging
narratives, field observation and different documents. This supported the purpose of within
seeing issues from different perspectives and to establish a chain of evidence. Another
criterion of validity is external validity and refers to the possibility a study’s finding
marketing and
can contribute to generalization beyond the actual case. In this research five embedded value creation
cases were used to make the generalization more compelling. Since this research is
more of a descriptive and explorative character internal validity was not applied. In 2503
order to improve the reliability of the study a case study database were developed for
collecting and categorizing the information given.

History of the case company
The case company has an old tradition in pulp and paper production since 1889.
A merger with another manufacturer in 2006 has made the case firm to one of the leading
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manufacturers of packaging board material in Scandinavia. The new group concentrated

its production to different paper and packaging board materials used for packaging
purposes. The total capacity is in excess of a million tons of paper and board with a total
turnover of 8,039 million euro and more than 1,800 employees. However, in November
2012 the case company was acquired and a new group was formed which will be a
leading manufacturer in primary fibre-based packaging materials and packaging
solutions. The new company have more than 4,400 employees in 13 countries.
In order to conduct the research and answer the research question five “corporate
stories” or narratives were selected for presentation in the case. The corporate stories
that are collected are narrated by the communication manager of the company. One of
the cases is selected from another type of retail chains in order to contrast the situation
in the food industry:
(1) Chocolaterie (derived 2012);
(2) Meals (derived 2012);
(3) Wmyra (derived 2012);
(4) International Fashion (derived 2012); and
(5) Confectionary (derived 2012).
Together these empirical findings reveal how firms operate with different functions
within packaging in order to develop a competitive advantage in a competitive
environment. The corporate stories reveal the importance of packaging’s influence on
function, design and adding value to customers. All of them important ingredients in
the marketing process for any firm.
Corporate story 1. Chocolaterie – the box is such an important marketing tool.
Chocolaterie is a small firm producing exclusive chocolate for the Swedish market but
with the intention to go international. The company has been growing in the domestic
market for some time. The company produces traditional variants of chocolate but also
more creative and unusual flavours such as blue cheese, single malt whiskey and cigar.
However, chocolate is not an easy product to pack since real chocolate is sensible for
external odours. The firm has worked with packages since the first chocolate cream
was produced and found it important how it should be protected and presented.
“Chocolate is an evocative product that calls up a flood of memories” says founder and
part owner of the firm. She continues “it calls up happiness. The process starts as soon
BFJ as you see the pack. That’s why the box is such an important marketing tool”. The
118,10 board material used is odour and flavour neutral. The packaging material was also
chosen due to the printing results and possibilities to print inside the box.
Corporate story 2. Meals – it has to be attractive. Meals identified an unfilled market
niche – family-size frozen quiches. A close co-operation with the designer and the
supplier of packaging board made it possible to develop a new package that has
2504 increased the sales of ready meals over the last six months. The previous paper board
package that was purchased from a wholesaler was to thin and was difficult to seal
gave problems, but the new solution has become a success with the customers.
“Packaging is central to building a brand. Most importantly, it has to be attractive and
communicate the contents clearly, leading to a decision to buy on the part of the
customer. It should also be functional and convenient” argues manager from the
designer agency. This is also supported by the managing director of meals who says
“with the help of strong design and a new packaging solution we positioned ourselves
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correctly”. This has moved the products from an occasional order range into the
mainstream range of Sweden’s leading grocery chain.
Corporate story 3. Wmyra – innovative packaging. Wmyra started up in 1999 a year
after the idea was born. The production of whiskey begun after that all permissions
were granted. The idea to produce whiskey was born when eight classmates were on a
skiing holiday. The result was a success story with an international reputation.
“We wanted an unusual, innovative packaging solution that fits the way people look at
our products” says one of the founders. The pack had also to be stable and give
possibilities for high quality of the printing in order to reach a premium feel. To reach a
high impact the pack has a four-colour printing with foil.
Corporate story 4. International fashion – trying to communicate a feeling. Every
Christmas season the International Fashion firm develops a new gift pack design and
to ensure a less commercial impact the logo is not printed on the pack. The gift
packaging is used during the Christmas season in all its shops in 40 countries. With the
graphic design “we are trying to communicate a feeling of luxury and flair, so print
quality is essential. The whiter the carton board, the better results” says the packaging
buyer. The material for the pack is chosen on the basis of a high printing quality, but
also the possibility to reduce the gram mage compared to the material previously used.
Corporate story 5. Confectionary – a different shape. The assignment for the
converter was to design a chocolate pack that could create a shelf impact, but also to handle
a month in the distribution system which requires a lot of the packaging material. The first
delivery was a test and when it arrived at safe at the retailers it became a regular line
“following good sales figures”. In addition to demanding conditions in the supply chain the
new pack had a new design. “We chose a different shape. In combination with the bright
colors it is an un-beatable combination for shelf impact. But the crucial point for this specific
business was how the packs would stand the very demanding voyage before ending up on
the retailers’ shelves” says purchasing manager at the UK Confectionary. A new V-shape of
the pack and a demanding distribution put an additional stress on the board material.

Interpretation of the corporate stories

Even if the corporate stories are different and describe diverse packaging concepts a
certain pattern can be established that symbolises the influence of packaging on the
decisions firms’ make in relation to the market. The factors that influence packaging
decisions refer to external factors either in the supply chain, or from requirements in Packaging
the marketplace made by end-customers. Internal factors are also related to the within
product and possibilities to develop a package in relation to material used, shape and
form of the package, but even the possibilities to produce a package suitable for
marketing and
a supply chain. The innovative part is symbolised by a packaging laboratory and value creation
showrooms for interaction between the supplier of the material, designers and
customers in the supply chain. The innovative process is also influenced by 2505
packaging design made possible through material used (in this case board materials),
shape and size attracting customers of a package, colour, texture and graphics. All the
corporate stories show that packaging design has become an important tool for creating a
product concept that offers functionality (in the supply chain), attracting customers to buy
the product in order to reach customer value. An important goal for the supplier of base
material is often to become a full-service supplier of packaging solutions. However, this
requires that the supplier has the ability to develop innovative packaging products and
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ready solutions to customers. An important factor is also to have design expertise

working close to customers in the supply chain since brand owners have become more
involved. Traditional sales meetings has as well found new forms where marketing and
design people come together with packaging specialists and research and development
managers to find new solutions for customers in a supply chain:
The interpretation of the corporate stories highlight the impact of (1) functional and efficient
board materials; (2) a need for packaging development for information and attraction of
customers; (3) smart packaging solutions to reduce waste of material and (4) packaging
development that improve logistics in a supply chain.

Discussion and conclusion

There are many options in which a company can seek to achieve a competitive advantage
and a strategic position in a market. One of them is to practise differentiation and increase
the value of a product and thereby create a competitive offering to a customer.
An essential mode to create a superior advantage is to develop a unique product concept
to a customer. Hooley et al. (2012) argue that “uniqueness may stem from employing
superior technology, utilizing superior raw materials, or from differentiating the tangible
and augmented elements of the product” (p. 277). Another mode to create a unique
and differentiated product is by using packaging as a competitive tool in marketing and
marketing strategy. This has also been found to be successful in the case company where
the supplier is working in close co-operation with design studios and converters to create
challenging solutions to customers in the supply chain. The present study implies that
packaging has become an important tool in marketing of food products either this is for
customers, or consumers in a supply chain. The findings provide several insights into the
linkage between packaging and marketing of food items (Table III).
The main attributes that is used by the suppliers refer to: the choice of material
(type of package), the shape of the package (for a pallet, shelf life), colour (need for
cultural adaptation; attraction value on the shelf), graphics (visual images or designs
on the surface) and labelling (information about product and its content; instructions).
The importance of packaging design has also been found in other studies, e.g. Holmes
and Paswan (2012). The choice of material is significant for the packaged product and
specific requirements during its distribution which often necessitates a primary and
secondary packaging solution. For demanding markets it may also be necessary with
a third packaging layer. By using an appealing combination of material and shape,
BFJ Marketing Cue Packaging
Product and product Packaging development Creation of customer value in handling
concept Functional development of the product and its content
package Customer convenience; user friendly
Material and its composition Reducing waste of food content; easy
Recyclable material to empty
2506 Composition of package that Meeting hygienic requirements
protect the content and leakage Re-use of package for other purposes
Reseal ability
Pricing Packaging design Branding purposes
Differentiation at shelf place
Private brands/product line
Distribution Packaging development for Package size/size of household
meeting requirements in a supply Reducing damages of product content
chain during transport
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Promotion Packaging design by using, Aesthetically appealing package at

material, graphics, symbols and shelf place
colours. The use of design studios Use of colours/business culture
Attractive printing
Service content Illustration and information about Intangible assets of the package
Table III. (information about the content and how to use the Benefits of the product when using it
Packaging’s function and how to use product Ease of disposal
influences on the product) Free samples for testing a new Appearance of package in relation to
marketing product content

the attractiveness of the package can be increased. The shape is also important for
the format in relation to a pallet or a container, but also for the shelf place. The colour
can be an utmost important factor for market success; either it is domestic or on an
export market since colour erase emotions among customers. Aslam (2006) argue that
colour “evokes strong product associations and category imageries”. Colour is also
used for “combinations or specifically coloured packaging are often used in
highlighting the country of origin of products in foreign markets” (Aslam, 2006,
p. 21). Another important ingredient for an exported product is that the graphic is
understandable for customers in the local marketplace. A customer should be able to
read and understand the information (e.g. instructions) given on the package which
often requires a cultural adaptation in relation to a local market context. This has also
put an extra pressure on the choice of packaging material and packaging solution
when products are exported to areas with different climate zones, or demanding
conditions in a supply chain. However, a further integration of packaging into the
marketing strategy requires marketing capabilities. Previous research like Murray
et al. (2011) has also argued for the importance of marketing capability as a necessity
for a firm’s success in competing in both domestic and international markets.
Marketing capabilities is an approach when firms organizes and combines different
resources into value offerings for the creation of competitive advantages. Marketing
capability can be expressed in different forms. Firms with the capability to develop
new innovative packaging solutions can effectively meet customers’ changing needs
and expectations. However, a firm’s marketing capability can also be expressed by
its ability of a high functionality of the package and use of material, or by efficient
communication at the point of sale (Figure 3).
Supply Chain Requirements
marketing and
Supplier of value creation

Customer Requirements
Design Figure 3.
Studio A conceptual model
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When competition is increasing firms are searching for more efficient ways to compete
and packaging and packaging design has obviously become an essential tool for
differentiation purposes as more products are introduced, e.g. in food retail markets.
At the same time new packaging solutions require an insightful marketing capability to
become effective in the marketplace. Since supply chain members can value packaging
attributes differently, marketing capability ultimately also require an understanding of
value creation processes among its members. This is also in line what Niemelä-Nyrhinen
and Uusitalo (2013) found in their study of potential sources of value in a packaging
value chain. The end customer has also specific requirements of a packages possibility to
communicate, besides protecting the content during transport and warehouse handling.
The package should also create convenience in order to support handling and storing of
products that is convenient within a supply chain and among end-consumers. Creative
packaging solutions for food products are also supplying different kinds of information
such as nutritional information and how to use the content. The results from the study
support also the propositions suggested in the areas of value creation and an increasing
importance of packaging for the marketing strategy. The study shows the significance of
linking packaging to the marketing strategy. This has become more essential as more
products are introduced on a market (P1). An important ingredient for that is the use of
packaging design for differentiation purposes (P2). However, this requires marketing
capability and further education of staff within a food supply chain which is partially
supported by the results in this study (P3). The results of this study also support that
packaging has become an essential factor for a secure and efficient distribution in a food
supply chain (P4). At the same time has packaging and packaging design contributed to
value creation for different actors in a food supply chain (P5).

Managerial implications
Our study has also further implications for managers. First, our results highlight the
importance of ensuring that packaging is an integrated part in marketing strategy
decisions. Another managerial implication from the case study shows that packaging can
be used together with the product concept in order to create a competitive offering to the
market. Especially if packaging design is done in relation with the development of the
product concept and not as a separate entity. Such efforts can enhance the efficiency and
effectiveness in a supply chain. A better packaging solution will also improve logistics
BFJ within a supply chain and reduce handling costs and provide safer loads and lower
118,10 damages to a product. An efficient packaging solution can also contribute to reduce
waste at different stages in a supply chain. The importance of reducing waste of food by
efficient and sustainable packaging has been emphasized by the Save Food Initiative and
the Food and Agriculture Organization (2011). Clever packaging solutions contribute also
to customer choice and convenience. From a marketing point of view packaging
2508 contributes also to communication and thereby to differentiation and brand building in
relation to competing offerings at the sales outlet. This is also consistent with the results
of Holmes and Paswan (2012) and Wang Edward (2013) who studied the influence of
visual packaging design on perceived food quality.

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About the author

Dr Bo Rundh is a Professor at the Department of Business Administration at the Karlstad
Business School, Karlstad University. His current research interest refers to international
marketing and marketing strategy. Dr Rundh has published in different international marketing
journals and at international conferences. He has also hold different marketing positions within
the exporting industry. Dr Bo Rundh can be contacted at:

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