Are package designers smarter than fifth and sixth graders?

May 21, 2008

The tetra pack is a handy invention that can be branded beautifully while still being functional, too. Just look at this great looking pesto package that was featured at the SIAL grocery industry trade show that Sabrina Falone visited in Montreal two weeks ago. It’s darn pretty but is the size and shape an efficient use of materials? I’m not sure but I bet my son Oliver, a grade six student, could tell us.

You see, last week over dinner, Oliver told me that the standard juice box style tetra pack is unnecessarily over filling our garbage dumps. It took Oliver and his grade five/six class only one math period to calculate that the same volume of juice could be contained in a cube shaped package, reducing the surface area of the package substantially.

“Less surface area means they need to use less material. That means less garbage and less money for packaging,” pointed out Oliver.

He and his classmates wrote a letter to the private label juice brand who sold the juice box they measured to point out their findings and to ask the retailer to consider changing their packages from rectangles to cubes. I hope they get a response.

I expect that even if they don’t hear from the company that retailers will be pressuring manufacturers and designers to create more packages that have a minimal impact on the environment; a widely publicized 2007 study by Information Resources Inc. surveyed 22,000 Americans and discovered that about half of respondents consider at least one sustainability factor when selecting purchases. I think this is great news and hope that smart young people and older consumers with money to spend continue to press for change.

Have you made purchase decisions influenced by sustainability concerns? If so, tell us about it.