Unilever Cutting Ink Colors to Save Millions and Reduce Waste
Photo via unleashingmephotography
Reducing the number of colors used in printing packaging for a sliver of their products is going to save Unilever millions of dollars every year, and could save the industry as much as $5 billion annually if other companies follow suit.
Unilever took a hard look at their spreads and dressings packaging in Europe and has decided to cut down from 100 hues used in printing to just six, using a program called Project Rainbow. Other major manufacturers could save a ton of money and ink if they follow in Unilever's footsteps.
LFH, the branding and design group behind the switch, said the initial savings for Unilever in Europe amount to $13 million to $26 million. Graham Hawkins, production director of LFH, said other package-goods companies are expressing interest, and said savings from color reduction could be applied to other areas of marketing.
Printing packaging stand out often has meant increasing the number of colors used. While 4-color printing is pretty standard (and there are certainly creative ways to get that done), many companies up the number of hues to help their packaging make customers ooh and ahh and pick their product. This includes businesses that make eco-friendly products. But going back to simple coloring takes eco-preneures back to their planet-conscious roots.
Mr. Gilmore (Thomas Gilmore, director-brand strategy for the Cincinnati-based branding and design firm RGI), who founded the Sustainable CPG forum on LinkedIn, notes considerable reductions in waste from such consolidations. Cost savings and waste reduction come from buying inks on a greater scale, creating far less ink and packaging waste in the process of doing changeovers, and from producing final packaging because reduced complexity can improve quality and consistency, Mr. Hawkins said.
Less waste is great, but even more improvements can be made by using soy-based inks, recycled packaging materials, energy efficient and low water machinery. Consolidating ink colors saves millions of dollars without sacrificing the quality of the printed images — so imagine if they went further and invested in reducing costs even more by going even greener. Instead of sticking to spreads and dressings in Europe, spread out to all the other gazillions of products Unilever produces. Zowee, what a savings that could mean.
Finally businesses are catching on that going green saves green, big time - and that includes printing packaging and promo materials. These "duh" areas where simplifying things and heightening efficiency are finally being explored. Now we just have to encourage businesses to go a little further, a little further, a little further.
More on Greener Printing and Packaging:
Green(er) Printing with Big Ink
The Ecopak: Moulded, Printed, Biodegradable Paper-based Packaging