Creating innovative and appealing designs that distinguish products from competitors is a constant challenge for companies in the packaging industry. But with a myriad of manufacturers and consumers looking for more experiential packaging, businesses are exploring alternative methods of attracting buyers.
One method currently gaining traction is the use of scented packaging. While adding an aroma to a polymer is not a new technology, the market for scented packaging has rocketed over the past few years at a rate of 15% per annum. In fact, the fruitful market is now worth approximately $300m.
Packaging company Addmaster has developed Scentmaster packaging, to tap into this growing market. Scentmaster creates individual fragrances in a variety of flavours that can be added to packaging to help establish an emotional connection between brands and consumers, in order to help boost brand loyalty.
"The relationship between sense of smell and our ability to retrieve memories and evoke emotions is a long established marketing tool," says Karl Shaw, marketing manager for Addmaster. "But aroma-enhanced packaging is a fairly recent development."
A taste of what's to come: from visual to scented
For companies, moving beyond traditional visual packaging with its focus on producing eye-catching graphics and logos to a more rounded consumer experience involves developing packaging that appeals to three major senses - sight, touch and smell. The market opportunities for plastic packaging have expanded widely.
Our sense of smell is closely connected to the part of our brain that processes emotions and memory, which poses a make or break situation for packaging developers. If the packaging creates a pungent plastic smell, it may summon up a negative memory or emotion, which stops consumers purchasing the product. Leading brands - such as Pepsi which patented an 'aroma delivery system' in 2013 - have been trying to counter this using personalised fragrances that mask unpleasant smells and link the emotional memory of the consumer to the individual brand.
"Consumers can immediately find out how the actual product smells even before removing it from its packaging, instead of the not-so-pleasant smell of plastic," explains Shaw.
This allows scented packaging to be used across a wide variety of products to produce a number of end results, for example, scented polymer can be used within food packaging to evoke the idea of freshness, or to enhance the smell of the packaged food product.
Encapsulating aromas : developing a personalised smell
Capturing and maintaining a fragrance is a challenge in itself as the strength of an aroma can diminish over time. Manufacturers have been experimenting with different methods of encapsulating fragrances using techniques such as spray-drying, spray chilling and coacervation, but the results were not always promising.
"Standard production techniques can produce disappointing results, because fragrances and flavours can easily be destroyed by the high temperatures required during polymer processing," says Shaw.
"Scentmaster is manufactured and supplied in a format that ensures that all of the fragrance is protected, allowing it to remain fresh and stable and deliver the subtle top notes of a high quality scent. It will diminish over time, depending entirely upon the application and the environment, but it will generally last for up to six months."
Scented packaging allows companies to develop a personalised smell which can be applied across the product range, to help strengthen the brand identity as a whole, or promote individual products. "We can match more or less any flavour a customer supplies to us," says Shaw. "Popular flavours include citrus, lemon and orange. Our most popular fragrance requests are currently chocolate, sun lotion cream, green apple, cherry blossom and orange - but the possibilities are endless."
Confusing the senses : added fragrances
Alongside standard scented packaging, packaging with added fragrances offers a subtle way of countering offensive odours. "The scent is tailored to confuse the human nose so that it only identifies a pleasant smell instead of the offensive malodour," says Shaw.
Bin bags, for example, on their own cannot mask the smell of rotting food, however a bin bag with the addition of a scented polymer can not only do this effectively, but it improves the customer's overall experience. The ability to cover odours at the same time as increasing marketing value is what makes scented packaging both appealing and diverse.
According to Shaw, Scentmaster has been used in a wide range of applications "such as educational products, including multi-sensory environments to stimulate children with learning disabilities, helping to keep washrooms smell pleasant and fresh, flavoured mouthguards, perfumed polymers in packaging to entice consumers with scents and even scented toys for stressed pigs to improve animal welfare."
Due to the changing social trends and customer demands that influence the buying processes, it is no wonder that packaging companies are trying to find new ways of attracting and maintaining consumer interest and brand loyalty. While leading companies with the funds to create wide-reaching advertising campaigns have an advantage, multi-sensory devices- such as scented packaging - offer an alternative and intriguing way for brands to set themselves apart.
"With a seemingly endless choice of packaged foodstuffs, it is a way of helping companies ensure their product stands out on the shelves," says Shaw.