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Accessible packaging is the future

16th May 2017


Packaging has often defined the marketing campaign of any product, displaying brand and use. It is also used for attracting the attention of the identified demographic the item is targeted towards and reflecting the brand ethos. Recently this has been coupled with more innovative uses and greener ideals, reducing the amount of packaging or using recycled materials, or even having a second use once the initial product is finished (such as wine boxes that turn into bird houses).

Now there is a shift in trends, as packaging has not only got to be eye-catching and original, but also accessible. While the spending power is shifting further to the over 50’s, the needs are widely differing to the perceived marketable age group – the millennials.  While the older generation prefer quality to gimmicks and may not understand the references used to attract a twenty something to an item, they are becoming the centre of any marketer’s campaign and changing the way packaging works. 



Often, those with mobility issues, who require extra facilities such as stair lifts, also struggle with dexterity and strength when it comes to fiddly openings. This may make a ring pull on a can near enough impossible and thus the person who would have purchased that product will go elsewhere for their beverage. It is this situation that many are trying to avoid and already changes have been made in some of the largest companies. 

Many people fear that it is accessibility that is stopping the elderly from having well-balanced diets, especially with fresh produce. This was recently brought to light over a Twitter tirade about  an overseas supermarket Whole Food’s decision to sell pre-peeled oranges. While this caused great distress among the ecologically minded, so much so that the supermarket retracted the product, those lacking in dexterity pointed out the positives of more accessible fruit. Ana Mardoll took up the baton of explaining the implications pre-peeled fruit and veg could have on the elderly and disabled community, as well as the importance of accessible packaging. 

Excuse me. If it won't alienate everyone, I'd like to talk about #disability accessible items a little more. (1)

— Ana Mardoll (@AnaMardoll) March 4, 2016

(full exchange available here)



While supermarkets are trying to placate those with environmental concerns, companies are looking into packaging for their individual products and ensuring they are as accessible as possible. Innocent recently expanded their range of containers as well as their range of products. Moving away from traditional cartons with small screw top lids and unwieldy rectangular bodies, innocent have developed a more ergonomic shape that allows for easier handling. The lid is now much larger which is better for those who lack dexterity and is gripped with the entire hand as opposed to the ends of a couple of fingers making strength less of an issue. 

When asked on the attitude behind their new packaging, Innocent responded: “For us, we want to make it as easier for people to get more of the good stuff into their bodies. With the drinks we make, we try to make it them as accessible as possible. We’re always listening to our drinkers, and looking at new ways to make it even easier to drink our smoothies and juices.”

Innocent have lived up to their name, introducing many charitable practices and sustainable acts. The big knit has long been recognisable as rows and rows of innocent bottles sport little bobble hats to aid donations towards Age UK. 


Nestlé has teamed up with Arthritis Australia in order to ensure that everybody has access to their products. This is an unusual approach as due to laws on discrimination, you cannot single out people with mobility issues to act as a panel. However as Nestlé is consulting experts to ensure their products satisfy the largest market, it is clearly an approach that works.


When asked about their strategy, Nestlé’s response was heartening: “At Nestlé we are putting the consumer at the centre of packaging development. This means creating packaging that is easy for people to use regardless of their age, disability or physical condition. Our journey began a decade ago when we received some confronting consumer feedback regarding a difficult to open coffee jar, we then realised we needed to address the needs of our ageing population in the packaging design process better.


“Recognising that one in five Australians have arthritis, Nestlé Australia developed a partnership with Arthritis Australia, working with them – as well as the US-based Georgia Institute of Technology - to develop two reports that helped Nestlé design packaging that’s easier to open. We also developed a world-first packaging accessibility benchmark with these partners which is enabling us to design better packaging for all Australians – not just those with arthritis.”



Another area of concern is that of medicines. While child-proof bottles have become an accepted part of medical packaging, it can also pose a problem to those who do not have the dexterity to push and turn at the same time. The same concern is extended to capsule pills that require some force to release them from the foil backing. This is troubling as it may stop people most in need of medicines either being able to take them, or taking them consistently as per their doctor’s instructions, purely due to packaging.

A barrier that faced both the pharmaceutical and the food industry is retaining a freshness of product. Though stale biscuits may be less than appetising, ensuring a medicine is at its most effective is a much more delicate process.

Not only does temperature play a key role in pharmaceutical storage, it also impacts the packaging, but as usability of both product and packaging is taken more into consideration, many packaging designers are getting creative. There is the added difficulty of information, small bottles have to pack a lot of information on the side, however those with limited eyesight may struggle to read instructions, storage or dose information and side effects if in small print. 

Image Credit: Kumar’s EditCharlotte MarrilletKokiHanada

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.