Supermarket packaging puts older customers at risk of serious injury

Packaging on supermarket goods can leave older consumers feeling powerless and vulnerable - and even puts them at risk of serious injury.

Supermarket packaging can affect people's sense of self-worth, according to new research
Supermarket packaging can affect people's sense of self-worth, according to new research

That’s the finding of researchers who found that issues such as difficulty reading labels or opening tins can damage consumers’ sense of self-worth.

Other problems included items being difficult to stack or too heavy to carry because of their packaging.

The findings revealed that age-related changes, such as arthritis and deteriorating eyesight and physical strength, made consumers more at risk of experiencing vulnerability.

Lead author Dr Nicholas Ford, of Portsmouth Business School, said: ‘A variety of products and services have been identified as inhibiting older people’s abilities to maintain their independence, from public transport to kitchen interiors and internet banking.

‘However, few factors are highlighted as often as difficulties with packaging. Marketing research has found high levels of dissatisfaction with much packaging among consumers.

‘In particular dissatisfaction has been reported among older consumers with fast-moving consumer goods packaging for example non-durable packaged items such as tinned food, packet meals and toiletries.’

Dr Ford added: ‘Studies show that due to changes in physical capabilities and social circumstances, older people risk suffering embarrassment and anger, and even potential illness and serious injury as a result of difficulties with packaging.’

The latest research, published in the Journal of Marketing Management, is based on in-depth interviews with a cross-section of consumers aged between 59 and 85.

All the study participants were living independently and shopping for themselves, so the packaging interactions began in store, often when locating a product on the shelf.

Participants reported blaming themselves for problems with packaging rather than the manufacturer.

The study concluded that easy opening packaging could provide just one way for firms to add value for older consumers.

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