Transparency 2.0: The benefits of carton packaging

Nine consumers out of ten are looking for more transparency when it comes to nutrition[1]. This is what the Kantar TNS survey revealed. It was carried out in the spring of 2018 in 14 countries for the 2018 SIAL in Paris. Authenticity, simplicity, naturalness are now at the heart of consumers’ expectations. What if paradoxically, carton packaging were the ideal solution offering a new form of transparency, based on accessible information and a more direct relationship than ever with brands?

Information & Commitment: towards transparency 2.0

Given nutrition scandals, controversial ingredients, specific diets, etc. consumers now expect transparency from brands more than ever. They now have to provide legible information on the product they are selling, its origin or its manufacturing process, as well as on the packaging it uses. Paradoxically, because it is opaque, carton packaging offers a unique printable surface that can be almost completely used, opening new communication channels with the consumer. What better option is there for printing useful information on products?

It is the choice that JUST Water made with the Tetra Top ®. In an instant, the consumer can read the composition of the packaging, its origin and impact on the environment. This is all done in an amusing and fun tone, creating real intimacy with the brand. JUST Water even goes as far as using this unique surface for expression, to encourage consumers to write their name on the carton, allowing them to keep it longer and limit waste. By choosing completely opaque carton packaging, JUST Water isn't at all compromising on the readability of their product. You can't but notice that it's a carton of water thanks to the blue design and the large word, “WATER”, written on the front of the pack.

If we add to that the digital opportunities that now exist, with QR codes on the pack linking to websites or apps, there are infinite possibilities for providing information and engaging customers; and the consumer has qualitative access to ample content from their phone.

Impact & Differentiation: infinite possibilities

Apart from providing information, brands also face the significant challenging of standing out from competitors in the increasingly competitive water market. Thanks to the wide range of formats and lids, carton packaging offers more than 6,000 possible combinations. Design is infinitely customisable. Some brands, such as Aquapax in the UK and in France and Dana in Slovenia, chose a metallic effect, associating a premium appearance with the notion of coolness and pureness to promote their water. A brand like No1 Rosemary Water in the UK chose white packaging, whereas VESI in Finland decided to take a totally different approach with a black design, to stand out strongly from others, breaking with the category’s codes. The pack then becomes a treasure chest to highlight the characteristics of the water it contains.

Other brands, such as the Spanish Bezoya, have opted for very colourful packs, offering several designs at the same time and changing them from one season to the next. The ReThink brand didn’t go wrong by choosing carton packaging for their children’s drinks, promoting fun designs perfectly suited to the target.

Printing flexibility, and an infinite choice of colours and designs to reflect the brand’s and target’s values best are at the heart of the possibilities Tetra Pak has to offer.

Packaging as a communication tool

At the same time, there is increasing interest from some brands for carton packaging, now viewed as a genuine communication tool. Several major hotel chains, including the Hilton and Melia, chose cartons for the water they supply to their customers in their rooms. Apart the service provided, it is always nice to be offered a pack of water when you get to your room. These companies saw a unique opportunity to use packaging to promote their brand and their values to their guests. On a different note, some NGOs even see it as a direct and efficient means of sharing social or sanitary messages with their target audiences.

In other cases, carton packaging can also become a souvenir, an object to keep. In Madrid, Spain, the Thyssen Museum chose to print their main paintings on Tetra Pak packaging and to give them to their visitors at the end of their visit to the museum. A nice gesture that will stay with them for the rest of their trip.

For Hélène Destailleur, Marketing Manager for Europe and Central Asia, in charge of development for the water category, “transparency is now vital for all brands, in all categories. We know how important it is for water, in every sense of the word. However, this definition is changing. Carton, with its opaque packaging, now provides innovative opportunities with an area that can be entirely printed on, or even the possibility of printing digital tools on it. Customer relations then become direct. All you have to do is have a quick look at your packaging or scan a code to access the brand. That’s why today we speak about transparency 2.0 and carton packaging can be considered a totally legitimate way for standing out from other materials.”


[1]Kantar TNS study carried out in the spring of 2018 in 14 countries for the SIAL 2018.

Helene Destailleur