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Egg-crate death-match

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TwoEggCrates

In this first article of a proposed series of death-matches, we will be looking at good and bad examples of everyday packages from the marketplace, and comparing them using our metrics that we have developed over the years. As usual, packages being low involvement products, we, as packaging professionals, naturally see a lot more detail than regular consumers might see. At the same time, the perspectives that we are putting forward here stem from thousands of hours of packaging research we have done with consumers around the world, often in observation rooms.

We wanted to start this series by looking at something that appears rather trivial. Many people talk about building a better mouse-trap, which in comparison to an egg-crate, may be relatively sophisticated. In order to go through this ‘death-match,’ we picked two extreme examples of egg-crates, one a natural paper pulp product, and the other made from plastic, not too different than an everyday foam coffee-cup. So then, let’s go on with it, which is better?

At the first look, the packages are not differentiated. But as it is typical with packaging products, the devil is usually in the details. As we have seen in our studies with consumers time and again, subtle cues which seem to be imperceivable, at least consciously, can drive purchase decisions at POP.

Both products have a living hinge that is molded in place. Both products have a latch system to hold the lid down. Both products are for packing 12 Grade-A eggs. But this is where the similarities end.

Appearance and Sensory Appeal

PaperCrateCloseUp PlasticCrateCloseUp

The paper pulp crate is presumably made of recycled paper pulp, looks natural and honest. As we have seen repeatedly in the past, staple food categories such as eggs require an honest packaging as the appearance of the package is associated in consumers’ minds with the product itself. We see this as an important factor. Lack of gloss in the package for this product is actually a plus. The glossier plastic crate for us implies a negative image for this product category. Also, plastic is showing damage much more prominently than the paper based product. Finally, the plastic egg crate actually squeaks when being moved, and there is a higher amount of flexing in the package with a negative effect on peace-of-mind. After all, sensory-appeal is about all five senses.

One interesting difference between the two package designs is the presence of a couple of windows in the paper pulp crate. These openings attractively display the product sitting in the package, actually complementing the matte finish of the egg shell, with a natural look of its own. This may not sound like much, but we have seen time and again that product visibility is an important factor driving POP decisions in the food category. The window is missing from the plastic version, presumably due to down-gauged material not being able to handle holes in the structure as easily.

Pulp Plastic
Appearance Star Star
Sensory Appeal Star Star

Package Functionality

Package Republic Can

Both products function similarly, suffering from the latch pad in the front requiring two handed operation to close. We do not see this as a big problem. The pulp product appears more robust buckling less in opening and closing, which gives it a slight edge. It also has a more robust latch.

Pulp Plastic
Functionality Star Star

Environmental

The paper pulp product wins here without much of a contest. The main reason for that is of course its reneawable nature with strong recyclability. While the plastic egg crate can be recycled, and can be made from recycled plastic, it is not a renewable resource.

Pulp Plastic
Recyclability Star Star
Renewability Star Star

Usability

We have our own proprietary usability methods, tools, and metrics that we have developed over the years. Normally, we would apply these methods to run a consumer test. For the purposes of this article, we are using instead a heuristic method that we have developed to predict consumer response using our package professionals panel.

The results are as follows:

Pulp Plastic
Efficiency Star Star
Effectiveness Star Star
Attractiveness Star Star

The lower efficiency and effectiveness scores for plastic are due to a slightly more time consuming closing which is also more prone to errors. Attractiveness scores are mostly due to natural elements in comparison with a petroleum based product.

Conclusion

For us at PackageRepublic.com, this comparison highlights the good and the bad in the packaging world in a rather simple way. The paper based egg-crate wins hands down.

Pulp Crate Plastic Crate
Overall score Star Star

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Egg-crate death-match, 4.5 out of 5 based on 4 ratings