Retail Ready Packaging and RTP: A View from the UK

Back in 2010 I posted to a LinkedIn group about retail ready packaging, and in particular, to a story on RRP which is no longer available online. One thing that struck me about the article was that reusable transport packaging was not mentioned explicitly. Back in the 1990s, I commented, it seemed that being shelf ready was one of the enormous benefits of reusable crates, but while the shelf ready concept took hold, reusable containers do not seem to be a part of the current conversation. I asked if they will play a larger role in an environment of increased RRP focus.

“In the UK & Europe we are still seeing a significant role for RTP in the retail sector and manufacturers are continuing to develop new designs that enable product to be merchandised within the RTP,” answered Angus Wolfendale, Managing Director at Foxwood, a U.K. based RTP consultancy. “However, where manufacturing and filling processes are highly automated, converting from cardboard packaging to RRP is harder to achieve.”

Angus has over 30 years experience in the logistics sector, and the last 14 in the design and implementation of reusable packaging systems.

Cardboard manufacturers have fought back, Angus noted, using recycled materials or FSC board in designs that enable products to be merchandised in heavily branded boxes. The traditional in-store savings, previously identified between one-trip and reusable RRP are disappearing and the use of recycled materials in one-trip packaging is balancing out the environmental argument as well.

“However,” Angus emphasized, “there are still areas where one-trip packaging is not suitable and/or cost effective. For example, the transportation and merchandising of bulk products, such as potatoes, squashes etc. In this sector, stackable units with either a pallet or wheel-base, are successfully being used by major retailers.” He believes that the robust nature of design provides better product protection, stack-ability improves vehicle fill and there are in-store savings to be gained from improved manoeuvrability and sales improvements from better product condition and presentation.

“RTP is not the panacea for all materials handling situations,” Angus cautioned. “Sometimes the cost and/or environmental drivers for converting to RTP just don’t stack up and without these, the incentive to convert is not there.”

Currently, he noted, retailers are merchandising dairy products, cooked and sliced meats, fats and cheeses in one-trip packaging. Predominantly this has been manufactured in cardboard, and, to a lesser extent, vacuum-formed clear plastic trays or protective shells. However, neither material is particularly robust, either to protect the product during transit or present the product attractively in the chilled fixture.

“The challenge is to develop an RTP system that fulfils both requirements,” Angus stated, “yet does not look industrial. The aesthetics of the design are more critical in this potential application of RTP, than has previously been the case. The use of clear plastics might be way around this, enabling the RTP to be less apparent on the shelf and enable the product to be clearly seen. I understand that some plastic RTP manufacturer’s are working on this.”

“As for external branding, the solution usually found is some form of wrap-around, either a disposable paper or board sleeve, or the application of a printed film. If permanent colour or graphic is integral to the RTP design, then we create unique RTP types which require sorting and restitution to specific packer/fillers, increasing the supply-chain costs and undermining the financial and environmental benefits that could otherwise be achieved.”

To contact Angus, visit www.foxwood.biz.

Originally posted in October 2010.

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