headline press information

Date 31st May 2013 / www.procarton.com
Title Simplify and Surprise!
Text In his first life, Lars Wallentin was responsible, during almost 40 years, for the development of creative design solutions for the strategic brands such as Nestlé, Nescafé, Maggi, Buitoni, Nesquik or KitKat. Today, he is a reference for many young marketing people. His device which clearly comes through in his teaching can be summarized in the three words: simplify, surprise and synergies. Pro Carton talked to him about what cartonboard and carton manufacturers should do, about the packaging supply chain and communication on packaging. For download in print quality, please click on the photo.

Pro Carton: Why is wood fibre your favourite material?

Lars Wallentin: Being in the package design business, obviously all materials are interesting to me as it all depends upon the product to be packed. Born in the Swedish forest, cartonboard and thus also paper have become my favourites for the simple reason that the products I have dealt with are mostly packed in this material, i.e. frozen food, chocolate, breakfast cereals, pet food, etc.


Several consumer studies have underlined that the general attitude towards paperboard is very good. Cartonboard can today be folded into almost any shape. Some years ago there was a breakfast cereals carton (I believe it was the World Cup 2006) from Nestlé with the carton in the shape of a football.


What would you do if you were the owner of a cartonboard manufacturer?

I would never consider the converter as the final client, but the so-called “brand owners”, i.e. the food, drinks, pharma, etc. industries. To learn about their opportunities and problems is what we, in the communication-design business, are dealing with. I would do whatever I could to help the industry which uses my cartonboard to sell more. How can I do this? I would not only sell by price and service, but I would also make use of the design industry. I would dig into any project which will create a more efficient communication, as that is what sells a product ahead of cartonboard quality. I would make friends with the best designers. I would invite them to be part of setting the goals for our future product qualities and specifications. I would attend as much forums as possible in order to get access to new trends, instead of waiting for them to hit me. I would definitely connect my brand with a site like this one.


How important would be a better Networking in the packaging supply chain in order to create more efficient packaging, and what would have to be changed in the organizations?

In certain areas yes, in other areas no. Package design is, as my friend Robert Monaghan at AirInnovation said, like the pentathlon in the Olympics.
Here is what we need to improve:

  1. The correct information to the consumer (see below);
  2. Better opening devices on many types of packages;
  3. Superior secondary packaging as trays or shelf-ready carton displays;
  4. Better information about ecology according to country. Recycling and packaging is not a problem in for instance Sweden or Switzerland, but certainly in the UK;
  5. Less legislation from Brussels. Let common sense prevail (see below).

To achieve the above, we must change the decision-making in the consumer goods companies. It is very difficult for a 28 year old brand manager to take the very best decision! We need considerably more design thinking (i.e. common sense) when we develop new packages.


You say, in-store communication is especially important. What are the most important elements?

It is in the supermarket or any shop where the consumer can grab the pack herself that we need more understandable and convincing communication, not just logotypes as today. The shipper (or a tray) is an excellent surface to advertise your product’s benefit, i.e. more communication, less information. Information does not sell, it just informs. Powerful copywriting or outstanding photography is communication and it helps to sell.


Pro Carton has found out in a recent study, that also communication at home of the packaging is very important, beginning with congratulating the consumer for buying to inspiring him to buy again. How do you see that?

Great information! But this can only happen the day the package designer considers the back panel as important as the front. This is not the case today. The back should be designed as a daily newspaper to stimulate the consumer to read it. Today, we are miles away from this! See articles “Why are back panels so boring…?” and “The future of the service panel” on my site www.packagingsense.com.


You say, sweets are global, all the rest has to be designed locally. Is it really so simple?

Basically yes. Sweet tasting products like ice cream, chocolate or soft drinks do appeal to most cultures. That is one of many reasons why CocaCola is so successful. However, savoury, salty, umami or bitter tasting products are very local for several reasons: eating habits (which change very little from one generation to another), climatic conditions, local fruit or vegetable, etc. Try to have a person from the Mediterranean region eat rye-crisp bread as in Scandinavia. No way! But they will both enjoy a Ferrero chocolate.


How do you see packaging design for special target groups, also smaller amounts in digital printing, and how do you see the participation of target groups in the design of packaging, e. g. in form of a photo sent in?

Sorry, cannot answer. I’m of another generation. However, I’m worried about the development we see today where younger consumers ‘isolate’ themselves with ear phones and the like. Neither Facebook, nor Twitter or the mobile phone will help to socialise in a larger context. Digital printing will obviously help to target more specific consumer groups, but to be successful and earn money, you have to appeal to a larger group (economy of scale) and you can only do that with offering something new and attractive to ALL consumers. This is what Steve Jobs has done with his iPod/iPhone/iPad, etc. Richard Branson’s Virgin, McDonald’s hamburger, or Nike’s running shoes are other examples.


To sum up what I would like to see is more designed communication which is what my articles on my website deal with. My book “The world’s first book about packaging communication” also deals with this. When we have reached the level of giving full nutritional information on a Tabasco bottle (of which we take 2-3 drops), or when we give full GDA (Guideline Daily Amount) on the front of a chocolate bar, we have come as far away from common sense as it is possible.


I should like to sit in a meeting in Brussels and discuss with those who develop new instructions as to what has to appear on a pack and where and how. This will obviously not happen. Do understand me correctly: I’m positive to most information the lawmakers wish to have, but I don’t agree how it is done.

See also Lars Wallentins Website www.packagingsense.com

Lars Wallentin
Lars Wallentin

Powerful copywriting or outstanding photography is communication and it helps to sell.





Suzanne McEwen +43 1 218 6918 mcewen@procarton.com
Background Pro Carton is the European Association of Carton and Cartonboard manufacturers. Its main purpose is to promote the use of cartons and cartonboard to brand owners, the trade as well as designers, the media and politicians as an economically and ecologically balanced packaging medium.