It is not mere chance that some companies survive and flourish in very close competition, where the conditions are changing in different periods.

Marks & Spencer has gone through many different phases since Michael Marks formed a partnership with Tom Spencer in 1894 and today is one of the UK’s leading retailers of clothes, home products and food. Some 10 million customers a week shop in over 370 UK stores.

Fit for purpose

“Packaging plays an important role in reducing waste by protecting products from damage, and we try to choose the type of packaging that will result in the best overall performance,” reads an extract from M&S’s packaging policy. “There are two aspects to packaging”, says Dr Helene Roberts, Packaging Manager for the food sector. “The function is very important: the pack has to be fit for purpose. The other aspect is that packaging creates theatre. It should communicate a lifestyle, with image and graphics highlighting the sense of the range.”

Frövi for shelf performance and innovations

“We have key strategic relations with converters and raw material suppliers, and we benefit from their awareness of our policy. Our partnership with material suppliers is a direct link for innovations”, says Dr Roberts. Environmental issues are high on the agenda. Compared to other packaging materials, board as a more fundamentally natural material, is increasing its share. A key principle is to use recycled board, but for food with direct contact or where taint and odour can be an issue, and where it is essential for the graphical design, fresh fibres are preferred. “Frövi board is outstanding for shelf performance in a chilled environment, particularly where we can maximise from the good strength and moisture-resistant properties. We do appreciate the technical support that PackLab has given us in solving problems, where they have tested how we can improve packs.”

Convenience a key word

An older population, single servings, informal dinner parties and less time for cooking are some of the consumption patterns that form the choice of food and the packaging of today. Partly due to the fact that the M&S stores are located in the very centre of the towns they appeal to the lunch- and after-work shopper who wants quality products and convenience, while many of the other retailers are located in the outskirts and focusing on families who do their weekly shopping.

Number one on packaging presentation

“When it comes to food M&S are number one on packaging presentation, especially graphics printing and they are still ahead of the field of all other retailers. It’s a joy to see the packaging. They have stayed with their quality”, says Mr Mike Hall, chief editor of the magazine Retail Packaging.