Born in Pembury a small village near Tunbridge Wells, in the heart of the green English countryside, Tony now lives with his fiancee and their young daughter in Dartford, Kent, a 40 minute train ride away from London, where he works as Senior Packaging Analyst for Mintel. Here Tony tells us about his career, his passion for design and packaging, and what it takes to become a packaging analyst.

Tony

If you are not in the industry, you may ask yourself what being a packaging analyst actually means. Well, I didn’t really know either until I started my career at Mintel, even though I always had an eye for design. I studied graphics at the Kent Institute of Art and Design. The best years of my life, I have to admit. I absolutely loved it. After graduation, my first job was as a photographer, taking photographs of products for big retailers, keeping track of competitors’ new product launches, in order for them to understand what was going on in the market. In a way, a job not too dissimilar from what I am actually doing for Mintel. I think this and my graphic design academic studies helped me in picking up the packaging role quickly. I also did some printing and 3D modelling at college.

So how did it all start? I became a packaging analyst in 2001, when I joined the GNPD (Global New Products Database) team at Mintel, which at the time was fairly small compared to now. I started off with internal training from a well experienced packaging technologist, who worked for big brands such as Boots. I learnt a lot and got to know all I needed to know in terms of packaging – then my role evolved and I started to look after the team, which was getting bigger and bigger. Today, it’s my role to provide internal training for our new starters, even though I still have regular meetings with external packaging technologists because there is so much going on in the markets that we have to constantly stay updated. Every day is a school day, they say.

My typical day as a packaging analyst kicks off at around 9 o’clock, with a freshly ground coffee and a couple of biscuits in the caravan. (He laughs. Yes, Mintel has a real air stream caravan on the first floor of their London office). In a day I analyse over 200 records. They are all types of product: pharmaceutical, food, beverages, etc, from almost 50 countries globally. We have shoppers all around the world who buy the products, pack them up, send over here from as far afield as Japan, China, Australia and worldwide. Since we started shipping back in the Seventies, we’ve purchased over 1.5 million products, a receipt of which would extend to way over 6km in length and the bill would have cost over $5m.caravan

Next step, our guys in the stockroom box them up, dividing them per country of origin. Then it’s down to the data entry team. They are amazingly skilled: all together they speak around 18 different languages, including Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish and Russian….. There are a certain amount of fields we use and we fill in for every single product feature to give our clients all the in depth information they need.

After the product data entry stage has been completed, the products arrive on my and my colleagues’ desks. We pick up and analyse every product from top to bottom one per time: what the packaging type is, what label it has got on it, how it’s printed, what type of cap or dispenser, essentially every single feature on that product. Then we focus on printing. There could be up to 4 different printing processes on one single product. A bottle for instance could be printed in silk screen, while the label may have been printed in litho. Then comes Innovation. This is when we take note of what we think to be innovative features, such as pack appearance, shape and novelty. Depending on different interests from the clients, I also work on ad hoc projects. For example I’ve just finished a massive one for a well known brand. At the final stage, we pass the products to our photography team, who take several detailed photos for every single product. As you can imagine, not every day is the same, but equally busy. I think my job requires several skills, in particular the ability to be accurate, observational and to be able to work methodically.

Even though packaging may sound a bit of a dull field to some, I still get surprised by the creativity and eccentricity of some products. Quite recently, for example, I’ve noticed some very special Tequila bottles in Mexico in the shape of weapons. We had one in the shape of a machete and it was made of such thick glass that it weighed an absolute tonne. Then we had one in the shape of an AK47 rifle, and another was pistol shaped. Some other ideas have a more functional approach. A few years back, we noticed an innovative product that you now see on the shelves every day, for baby milk powder. The innovation consisted of a new opening system inside the product to make the usage easier and add extra protection. Being the first to spot trends such as this for our clients gives me a real buzz.Tequila

When you analyse packaging every day like me, you realise that there are some crazy ideas out there. Innovation could be anything: it could be shape, anything visual, there are lots of different ways of being innovative. At the same time, however, being innovative in packaging can be difficult. A packs function often depicts it’s shape, so for instance a glass bottle is often of a standard shape. That’s the reason why, I think, my job is important for manufacturers to understand new pack innovation and consumer needs.

When I am not working, I don’t do much shopping, but when I do I can’t really help myself: you find yourself looking at stuff and, yes, I have to say that my job has had an impact in my daily life. I think it’s a sort of professional bias. Even when I am at home, I might pick up a bottle from the fridge and before opening it, I look at its packaging features and think “oh, so that manufacture has made this”. Yes, it does happen and I particularly like novelties. I’ve got quite a few at home. One of my favourites was for Christmas: a little reindeer with jelly beans in it. You push a button down and then out comes a brown jelly bean, just like the reindeer has just ‘done his business’!

I guess the best part of my job is my colleagues. I’ve seen people come and go over the years, but some of them have been working here since I started, so I have established some long-term friendships. If I didn’t start a career as a packaging analyst for Mintel? Well, when I was a child I wanted to be a fighter pilot in the RAF!

One Day is the first in a series of new blog posts featuring Mintel’s team members from around the globe, showing you what being a team member for the leading market intelligence brand is really all about! See more on www.mintel.com

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