What should packaging be like in order to succeed with the aging population? This issue was also discussed during the German packaging congress in autumn 2006, when under the motto „Packaging moves the market“ it highlighted further necessities for the successful implementation of products. German market analysts along with selected organizations dealing with the needs of the older population discussed issues that are common to other European markets, including the Czech.

New consumer group

For German consumers over 50, the annual purchasing power is on average around 21 thousand Euros, which is almost 2 thousand more than consumers under 49. Their influence on the market offer is undeniable and it will continue growing. It varies greatly because of the view of the assessment of age. If a 60-year-old person was previously considered to be a man ripe for rest, today he can be counted as a person experienced, more and more often in a good physical and mental condition and often one to continue working.

The time when the pensioners surrendered their needs and acted with restraint is gone. Today’s seniors not only have money, but also spend it. At the same time, however, this age category of consumers requires their specific needs and requirements to be respected. If a product does not meet these expectations, they shift their interest to other products, as it is illustrated by the following comparison.

Consumer reactions to inappropriate packaging in 1999 and in 2003

  • they try to cope with packaging by themselves – 1999: 72.0%, 2003: 68.0%
  • in the future they will buy a product from another manufacturer – 1999: 34.0% 2003: 57.0%
  • they talk about the known problems with the product – 1999: 21.0% 2003: 32.0%
  • they inform service personnel – 1999: 10.0% 2003: 6.0%

What upsets most seniors?

Federal senior company organization (BAGS) in Germany examined in great detail what issues elderly people have with most packages. Conclusions can be drawn from the following response rates.

How often do you fail to open the container on the first attempt?

– 6.1% daily
– Twice in the same week 40.8%
– 1 x per week 27.1%
– 1 x per month 18.2%
– Never 8.1%

What difficulties do you encounter most often?

– Opening mechanism does not work 75.4%
– Opening tongue or tape cannot be found 55.1%
– You need to apply great strength to open the packaging 46.0%
– One has to be extremely dexterous to open the packaging 33.6%
– Other specific reasons 5.6%

Name the products with which you are experiencing the greatest difficulty opening?

– Drugs 14.4%
– Yoghurt and cottage cheese products 15.0%
– Cleaning products 22.9%
– Marmalade and jams 23.2%
– Drink bottles 26.0%
– Tin cans 26.8%
– Packaging of coffee and coffee products 29.9%
– Dairy products 38.7%
– Sealed products 70.6%

Do you feel cheated by the packaging content of some products and why?

– Yes, the volume of packaging 34.0%
– Yes, the product cannot be visually seen before the opening of 29.7%
– Yes, in relation to its quality 22.1%
– No 14.2%

Would you wish, in some cases, smaller type of packaging?

– Food 54.2%
– Body care products 20.1%
– Detergents 16.1%
– Beauty products 15.3%
– Other products 11.3%
– No 28.2%

Are there packages where some part of the packaging is excessive?

– Yes, for food 40.4%
– Yes, cosmetics 40.1%
– Yes, for body care products 39.5%
– Yes, for washing and cleaning products 18.6%
– Yes, other products 18.1%
– No 18.1%

From the perspective of seniors appears as the optimal packaging such that:

– Can be easily opened
– Has better and readable information about the contents of the package
– Corresponds to the size of their real content
(Bulkiness packaging is often forced by retailers‘ requirements for the protection against thefts of expensive goods from shops – larger outer packaging cannot be hidden under the clothing)
– Contains less product (especially suitable for older consumers living alone and single households), an important requirement especially in FMCG

Optimistic colours, capital letters

Under Martina Koepp, commercial director of the German Society for Geria Technology ​​of Iserlohn (GGT), with increasing age the perception of physiological factors changes rapidly. Elderly people tend to have difficulty with visual acuity, hearing, smell and taste. Their reaction, agility, physical strength and skill are often significantly reduced. Tactile functions are limited and motor skills and overall physical condition changes as a result of decreasing toning to physical stress.
Visual perception especially changes dramatically. In addition to reduce visual acuity and the need for optical correction (glasses, contact lenses), accommodative properties of the eye can also degrade (while watching television, reading) along with adaptability to rapid changes in light.
Colour perception also changes. Especially shades of blue and green appear as grey or almost black. Increased incidence of “night blindness” appears. Increasing age may also lead to diseases that cause clouding of the lens and thus reducing the optical perception.
For these reasons, it is necessary to create packages for seniors with colour composition, which is seen unchanged even in an advanced age. This is called optimistic range – i.e. higher proportion of red, orange, yellow and light green tones. Now colour coding, which is immediately visible, should serve to differentiate the various species of the same product. Of course, larger and legible handwriting should be used, including for technical data such as production date, expiry date or recommended consumption of the product.
Besides these aspects a graphic package for seniors requires an overall inventive technical solution to handling, especially when opening and closing, that is clear, light and simple. The favourites currently are packaging such as those with the flip-off cap – “peel-effect closures”, food in foil, or multidose with the zipper.

Optimal packaging for all

The collected data and requirements show that, to improve the situation in the market of “senior-packaging” it is necessary to apply innovative process that accommodates packaging as a whole. Compliance with the requirements placed on packaging by seniors would also be appreciated by other customer groups (single households, mothers with children, the physically handicapped and others).
The vision for the future of packaging can be summarized in the statement by Erika Neubauer, the business director of BAGSO: “Optimal packaging should be friendly, practical and comfortable, suitable for young and old, just for all!”

Necessities of “senior-packaging”


Colour preference: prefer, from the variety of colours, composition of red, yellow and orange; green, blue and purple tones are poorly identified
Contrasts: give priority to significant differences between light and dark colours

Typeface: prefer smooth fonts without twists, serifs and curls, as
Ariel, Helvetica – using both uppercase and lowercase letters, not just caps
Font size: at least 10 points, i.e. 3.75 mm height
in case of negative font, at least 12-point font
Font style: normal and bold, no italic
Type of rate: the best aligned to the left side
Hyphenation: if possible, be completely ruled out, not divide
Line width of text: a maximum of 40 characters per line
Line spacing: 1.5 lines
Spacing between letters: about 1 printing point

Picture motives:

Product use: It is suitable to display methods of opening or instructions for preparation;
unambiguous differentiation of products, e.g. in a product line, is desirable.

Graphic design (layout):

Clarity: colour, font and visual motives must be arranged neatly,
Related information section should be concentrated in the boxes with headings,
saying what it is about

Source: Research Berndt & Partner Berlin
Article Authors: Boris Růžička and Ladislava Caisová
Taken from the World of Packaging magazine 1/2007