It’s a question that has been pondered for decades, but in more recent years, technology has given the process a massive boost.
Whether it is labels for bottles or entire carton blanks, digital print allows the prototyping and versioning that precedes a launch to occur much more quickly and cost-effectively.
As AR Packaging explains, stakeholders can now be looking at an accurate lookalike of a proposed piece of consumer packaging within a week.
But as the converter admits, that is only half the story. What about the very human processes of appraisal and approval among the client’s decision-makers?
In the case of the Kit Kat Senses carton, AR Packaging says it took Nestlé’s confectionery team in York just two weeks from receiving its prototypes to making a final decision, even though its impact would be felt in different markets. The pack is now in the UK and the Netherlands, and will launch in Germany later this year.
Not all international new product development moves so swiftly or smoothly. When Coca-Cola launched the asymmetric Fanta ‘Spiral’ bottle last year, it came after at least two years when the concept appeared to have been shelved.
Not so smooth sailing
Months of collaborative work had been put in the deep freeze because of ‘inconclusive’ eye-tracking trials carried out in a distant part of the business – and, in all probability, cold feet regarding the costs.
It took a regional manager who was willing to go out on a limb to resurrect what later became a global design. As the lead designer on the Fanta project suggested at the time, even something as technical as product development has to have risk-taking built into it.
Paul Gander is a freelance editor and journalist.