29 Jul 2015 19:59 IST

How to pack a punch

Manjushree Technopak’s book on packaging packsmuch by way of visual appeal

How many times have you wished the darn ketchup would just flow rather than emerge as sluggish blobs in capricious fits and bursts, and only if you shake the bottle hard at that? Isn’t it nice to know that there’s a brand that tried to package it with that goal in mind? How come that vibrant, story-telling jar of éclairs, cappuccino-flavoured at that, doesn’t seem to be on store shelves? And did you know that it was Napoleon Bonaparte’s challenge – with a reward of 12,000 francs – that led to the invention of sterilised airtight tin containers that could preserve food for his army?

Packaging company Manjushree Technopak has published Reflections, a coffee table book which lists several case studies of product packaging. An accompanying note lists the rationale for the design and the materials used. Not only does each page carry a pack shot, it also has other artwork that sometimes looks nicer than the packaging itself.

My favourite is the visual used for an energy drink – the pack pales in the face of the fresh lime and mint images used as embellishments. So is the picture of the onion half, cut side up, garnished on the side with a tiny sprig of coriander, to accompany the case study of a brand of onion flakes. A nice tactic, because it makes the product look and feel fresh, however transient the feeling.

The book is not just for those who have a stake in packaging. There is history in nutshells in the first few pages – down the ages packaging material started out as shells, gourds and animal hide and moved on to baskets made of leaves and reeds and then to paper, earthenware, glass, metal and plastic. The section on glass packaging has pictures of some beautiful containers.

For the ordinary, casual reader, page after page of marketing challenges and compulsions and packaging jargon in repetitive language might begin to wear a bit. And maybe even fox them occasionally: does the jar of badam drink mix really resemble an almond, and that jar of ghee, doesn’t it look short and squat in direct contrast to the “slim, fit human body” it aimed to mimic? Some spelling and grammar mistakes jar in an otherwise engaging and well packaged production. Not all brands mentioned in the book are Manjushree’s clients; a panel of three experts chose whom to include. I must confess I looked for more anecdotal information in its pages. Hopefully, the future editions will remedy that. And to digress, if only more snacks and other food came in re-sealable packs instead of ordinary ones, life would be so much easier!

Reflections: A Collection of 50 Best Packaging Designs

Heritage Publishers 2013