Tray and lidding sustainable packaging
Sustainability Semiotics

Sustainable Packaging – Design Is The First Sign Of Intention

5 Points To Consider

There are many areas a business might achieve sustainability improvements, such as low-cost energy, water saving, compostable materials, food creation, through utilising RnD experts, and training programs, amongst others. The one closest to my heart is sustainable packaging.  Australians throw away around 1.9 tonnes of packaging each year – enough to fill the Melbourne cricket ground nine times over.

Many experts in the Australian industry have ambitious packaging sustainability goals to meet by 2025, it will take a coordinated multi-pronged approach to achieve these goals as The Circular Economy has a fundamental impact on a broad spectrum of business and livelihoods, it is crucial to add emphasis to Design as The First Sign of Intention when planning to meet the boardroom directives and in doing so enable brand owners and manufacturers to meet the market with economic outputs whilst implementing the ERP and APCO directives.


Let’s talk about problem-solving and design challenges for retail packaging; 

Modern Manufacturing Strategy – To drive economic growth and future resilience manufacturing is often led by the industry for competitive advantage;  “Our local success stories are manufacturers that compete on value rather than cost alone. They have lifted their competitiveness and productivity by investing in new technologies, research and development (R&D) and effective business practices. However, when compared to similar economies, not enough of our manufacturers are scaling up in areas that provide good returns. The Australian Government is committed to doing something about this. We can position manufacturing as a big income earner for the nation, harnessing our talent to support high value-add activities across a range of areas. It will create well-paying jobs and help grow the economy.”

Design Intention from the get-go

  • White space Ideation, hypothesis and knowing your consumer well to help the manufacturers gear for the market
  • Build the Brand Architecture to align the brand owners strategy to that of the manufacturer’s capability goals
  • Assess speed and impact and build a long-term innovation funnel with risk mitigation and financial planning
  • Project Plan and Implementation


Often the primary dilemma sits in the due diligence stage or the design thinking stage with the two primary pillars, 1. The Brand Owner and 2. The manufacturer, with the question of where to secure funding for the market data, RnD, design, prototyping, market assessment and technical feasibility studies.

Manufacturers that supply competing Brand Owners, are often not privy to I.P. of key market insights and may become privy to insights by executing projects.  This slow process is often associated with high technical and capital-intensive implementation costs.  To recover these initiation costs the often-used bartering tool of amortisation leaves the manufacturer in an unenviable position of throughput based on the back of market demand.

Collaboration of the experts from silos to squads of experts aligns the design intent with feasibility and a strategic pathway to introduce sustainable packaging that is relevant and a key component of the Brand Architecture.


Brand Architecture used to be neatly divided into two schools. Those favouring a dominant corporate brand (such as Amex or Virgin) chose the Branded House model, while others opted for the House of Brands, typified by numerous sub-brands with little or no mention of the company behind them (for example, General Mills and Reckitt Benckiser).

Several emerging trends have rendered these concepts over-simplistic and outdated. Firstly, the ubiquity of information has lifted the veil of the company behind the product and therefore these brands are becoming ever more interlinked. As a result, enlightened customers are becoming more demanding and discerning in their purchasing decisions.

Secondly, the sheer cost of maintaining brands is forcing a rethink of where to invest the marketing dollars. And finally, as companies more frequently acquire strong brands with long histories in new geographies, it gets harder to simply or immediately absorb these into the Master brand. 

In response, companies are increasingly turning to a “brand network model encompassing more differentiated and tailored relationships between corporate and product brands. 

Many of you will be familiar with the traditional models as depicted above, this then needs to align within category and brand, such as McCain’s example below.

Brand Architecture, big portfolio roll out
Brand Architecture created for McCain Frozen Food


In Discovery which takes place prior to signing off on the design intent; manufacturing processes are assessed, carton producers, blow moulders, printers and industrial manufacturing plants:  glass manufacturers, mould makers, to further enable the feasibility selection process.

Ideations that are complex and slow down manufacturing are eradicated or ‘banked’ for later withdrawal, from the funnel, and designs that enable quick mould release are included, industrial designers and engineers review the mould-making capabilities and, a reflection of the funnel takes place as well as consultations on projected capability strategies. The high-impact and low-cost ideations that align with the Brand Architecture are fast-tracked.


Upstream innovation requires a shift in mindset, beyond focusing on incremental packaging improvements. It is about rethinking how we get products and services without creating waste. Rethinking the packaging means innovating at the packaging design level to provide the same essential packaging function while designing out waste.

If you are looking for Brand Architecture on a large FMCG or Pharma brand, book me for a free 30-minute consultation.



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