President and CEO of Web Packaging Solutions.
The flexible packaging industry is growing, making it an excellent choice for budding or current entrepreneurs ready to start a new venture. According to market research firm Spherical Insights, the market size of the global flexible packaging industry is projected “to grow from USD 255.8 billion in 2022 to USD 397.39 billion by 2032” at a compound annual growth rate of 4.5%. This projection is far from surprising. The firm noted that the “increased demand for instant meals, fast food, and other consumable items is driving the global flexible packaging industry.” Moreover, given the benefits of flexible packaging over rigid packaging, companies have greater motivation to make the switch.
I’ve seen firsthand what it takes to succeed in this industry, having been in it for over 30 years. Here’s my advice for anyone who wants to enter the world of flexible packaging.
Recognize That There Are Five Key Components To Success
In my experience, there are five key components to success in the flexible packaging industry.
First, it’s essential to understand customer needs and psychology. Flexible packaging is a B2B business that develops industrial products, not consumer products. As such, customer needs and psychology are different. Ultimately, a customer buying flexible packaging is doing so to propel their business forward by making their products more appealing and easy to use. As someone who wants to supply them with flexible packaging, you must make a solid business case for why your materials will help them drive their bottom line.
Of course, there’s also the supply side of the business, which is just as important as the customer side. Namely, it would be best to research suppliers thoroughly and understand the right type and quantity of materials to buy. Then, you can figure out your distribution model. Making the wrong calls on the supply side can wreak havoc on your business.
Then, there’s product knowledge. While a degree in materials science isn’t necessary, a thorough understanding is. You’ll be buying raw materials, such as films and other substrates. It’ll be imperative to understand how different materials hold up in various weather conditions, where different materials tend to be produced, what materials sell best, which materials pair well with different machines and the lifecycles of different materials, among other factors. It’s okay not to know all of this information at the beginning. You’ll be on the right path if you know what you don’t know.
Understanding global supply chain dynamics, especially as they shift, is critical. The better your understanding of these dynamics, the better you’ll be able to move and deliver materials worldwide on time. While you can study supply chain dynamics, the best way to understand them is through hands-on experience over time.
Finally, you need the financial appetite to conduct business between different regions, namely between North America (if that is where you are located) and the Asia-Pacific, a heavyweight in the industry. According to a report by Triton Market Research, “the Asia-Pacific flexible packaging market is estimated to advance at a compound annual growth rate of 5.19% in value and 4.51% in volume during the forecast period 2022-2028.”
Becoming proficient in these five components is challenging. But as long as you are good at three out of the five (it doesn’t matter which ones), you will have a good foundation for your flexible packaging business.
Especially in the early days of operating in this industry, it is crucial to maintain clarity and remain focused.
Many opportunities will look promising, but you should not jump at all of them. There is a cost to saying “yes.” With each “yes,” you’ll further divide your money, time and energy. Instead, be honest with yourself about your strengths and interests. You might look at opportunities worldwide and decide that working with suppliers in a particular country is more strategic for you because you speak the language of that country. By knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no,” you’ll minimize the risk of over-exerting yourself.
Prioritize Building Credibility
Credibility is paramount in this industry. By building credibility, you can develop a good reputation. Suppliers and customers will trust you.
The best way to build credibility is always to put your customers’ interests first. Create and live by a set of core values, and make business decisions that align with those values—and that will best serve your customers. Happy customers are the backbone of solid businesses in any industry, and the flexible packaging industry is no exception.
With time, you’ll gain experience in the flexible packaging industry. But you should strive to keep learning. By remaining a constant, humble student, you can keep developing your skills and stay on top of new materials, machines and other changing industry trends—increasing your business’s chances of survival.
Charting Your Path to Success
The flexible packaging industry is an ever-evolving canvas. Your continuous learning will not only craft your path to success but also leave an indelible mark on the vibrant landscape of this thriving industry. With the right mindset and steadfast determination, your journey could become the next inspiring chapter in the story of flexible packaging. As they say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a tiny step.
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