Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Greatest Thing FOR Sliced Bread

We've all heard the expression "The greatest thing since sliced bread" [*] - now here's your chance to improve on it.

NineSights (formerly NineSigma) has a Request for Proposal for improvements to the packaging of sliced bread. The unnamed client (more on that in a minute) has a short list of desired improvements, such as
  • Improve on-shelf merchandizing [sic] in appearance or ease of shopping for the consumer
  • Improve the consumer experience through an “easy to use” package format
  • Enhance the consumer perception of “freshness” for sliced bread
  • Enable flexibility in product production that accommodates varying sizes of sliced bread products from individual slices to full loaves of fresh bread
  • Provides an intuitive opening feature and re-closure feature for consumers
  • Provides a tamper evident package feature
  • Reduced cost from enhanced process efficiency or more economical materials/solutions
  • Package produced from sustainable materials
Is that all? Any one of these items alone is a major product development effort, but start trying to combine them and you really get headaches. Look at the last two items: Reducing costs AND using sustainable materials? If that were possible, everyone would be doing that already.

Innovative packaging is extremely difficult to achieve. Everyone one of us has experience firsthand with packaging materials and so we all think we are experts. We complain about it, we think it is wasteful and we could all do it better ourselves. That is, until we are directly asked. The demands on a simple package, even one as simple as a bread bag, could easily fill a page a paper in a 10-point font. For instance, it has to be approved for food contact, it has to be waterproof/resistant, it has to be clear, it has to be made of something that can be processed at high speeds on automated machines... And now to add these additional demands, without removing any of the previous requirements just makes it worse. I am truly elated that I've had very few experiences working with packaging.

On the upside, the customer can probably pay you pretty well. While they are not explicitly named, this description
"NineSigma’s client manufactures more than 200 million packages of sliced bread per year. Current sliced bread packaging consists of a printed polyethylene bag with a plastic lock closure. Additionally, some breads use an inner wrap consisting of a polymer film with an outer printed polyethylene bag with a plastic closure."
is pretty telling. The only national bread company that I know of that used an inner and outer bag is Pepperidge Farm, a seller of premium products (undoubtedly with a premium margin).

Good luck if you want to take this on, even as a moonlighting project. You will need it.

[*] The Wikipedia article on sliced bread is pretty interesting, including the section on a 1943 effort to ban sliced bread because of World War II.

No comments: