Packaging Innovations: What, How, Where

Packaging Zen

Innovation has always been a critical issue in the packaging industry. Packaging innovations are what drive the field forward ─ but what is innovation?


Earlier today, we were reading a Packaging News article about the Packaging Innovations 2015’s Great Innovation Debate and Brand Innovation Programme, where innovation will be discussed as phenomena. At one point of the article, three interesting questions were posed:

  • What is innovation?
  • How do we define innovation?
  • Where does innovation come from?

Too often, we get carried away when talking about packaging innovations, such as new materials3D printing, etc. But we don’t question innovation that much ─ like, what is it? What exactly is innovation, and how can we make it happen, or make more of it?


The definition of innovation depends on its source. The Business Dictionary defines it as“the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay”; that is, the process from abstraction towards something replicable and economically profitable.

That’s the straight answer. From there, one can get as creative as wanted. Take, for example, Fast Company’s David Brier video-essay on the matter:

Which ends like this:

[quote style=”boxed”]“What is innovation? Those other dots. The ones others miss. And having the certainty to know that the dots you see are not only valid but necessary if the world is to move forward.”[/quote]


The how is somewhat more complicated, because innovation isn’t a defined process. It’s not made of any number of steps: that’s why abstract definitions as Brier’s prove to be much more helpful in grasping the concept.

But innovation does have some key ingredients. John Rogers, executive vice president of Goldman Sachs, emphasizes three main focus points: innovation, (or ideation), entrepreneurship, and execution, which he finds lacking:

[quote style=”boxed”]“There’s probably an oversupply of innovation (…) It’s the execution that makes a difference.”[/quote]

Ideas are worthless without work.


The sources of innovation have been frequently discussed, and the Internet is full of lists of “ways to innovate”. Many of them are made up from regurgitated content ─ but shared content nonetheless. Some of the ever present advice goes as follows, (without any particular order):

[quote style=”boxed”]“Observe customers. Watch the competition. Combine. Add. Eliminate. Brainstorm. Adapt.”[/quote]

In the end, innovation is coming up with new solutions to existing problems, (or non-existing needs). In a strange way, innovation is akin to repairing. And, as with any other repairing job, the key is analyzing, defining, and then iterating until reaching satisfaction.

But innovation doesn’t remain constant through the years. Some fields experience bursts of innovation. Some don’t. Some rise to the top, just to become stagnant. Innovation is unpredictable: a small advancement is all that it takes to shake an entire industry ─ or shred it to pieces. (I’m talking to you, Nikon).

If you don’t want to be the one shredded, you better be the one who discovers it.


Sponsored by Derprosa, leading brand in biaxially oriented polypropylene films for packaging.