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DS Smith's new study reveals Brits spend 43 days of their lifetime struggling to open packaging

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DS Smith's new study reveals Brits spend 43 days of their lifetime struggling to open packaging

December 09, 2019 - 12:03
    LONDON, Dec. 9, 2019 (Press Release) -
  • 84% have felt frustrated with packaging they couldn’t open and more than a third (35%) say problem packaging makes them angry
  • It’s become such a fraught matter that a quarter (25%) have had arguments
  • Two fifths (39%) of people have even caused themselves an injury navigating problem packaging
  • Gen Z (aged 18-24) are most likely to suffer frustrations from opening packaging
  • It's such an issue, that it is putting over a fifth (21%) of people off buying certain brands – which could be costing these companies £1.5billion each year

As Brits are busy completing the last of their shopping and putting the finishing touches on Christmas, new research from leading sustainable packaging provider DS Smith has revealed a scourge on their time: packaging that leaves even the most patient Brit frustrated.

The study revealed that Brits are spending a whopping 43 days of their life (19 minutes a week) trying to get into packaging that is overcomplicated and over-zealous. Over a fifth (22%) say that it makes them feel defeated and a quarter report that they’ve ended up damaging or breaking the product itself.

On Christmas day alone, the UK population will spend enough time to fill 2021 years battling blister packs, clashing with cable ties, and tussling with taped boxes – with a sixth of the population spending more than half an hour frustrated by packaging.

Despite older people suffering with declining grip strength, it’s Gen Z that are most affected by the issue with 56% of 18-24-year olds having to ask for help with buying, opening, or collecting an item – more than any other generation. They’re also the generation most likely to be put off from buying a brand (34%) or an online store (34%) because of frustrating packaging.

Other key complaints about problem packaging include the use of materials that require a tool such as scissors (50%) to open, taking too long to get the product out of the packaging (30%), the use of too much sticky tape (30%), the boxes themselves being too tough to grip, hold, or carry (27%), or needing a screwdriver to open (22%).

Men are most likely to waste time struggling – opting to keep trying for nearly three minutes longer than women before asking for help. Requiring such assistance has left one in 10 (10%) feeling embarrassed and an equal percentage getting fed up (11%), and a fifth frustrated (19%) that they needed support.

The worrying results of these ill-considered packaging products are that people are causing themselves real harm: nearly two in five Brits (39%) reported that they had hurt themselves trying to open a package, with more than 1 in 10 (16%) breaking scissors or knives trying to get into hard to open boxes.

Christmas conflict

It’s also a cause of friction during the winter festivities. A quarter of Brits (25%) admitted to having argued with their close ones about opening problem packaging: nearly two thirds (63%) have squabbled with their significant others and three in 10 (30%) have fallen out with children. Astonishingly, 14% have even bickered with their boss over the issue.

Indeed, at a time which should be about bringing people together, these frustrations are tearing people apart. Nearly half (45%) say they have had to ask others to help them buy, open or collect an item at Christmas or another social occasion because of frustrating packaging, and of these people 47% said it made them feel left out or less involved in the occasion.

Robyn Macdonald, Inclusive Design Lead at DS Smith said, “These shocking results show that problem packaging isn’t just a nuisance, it’s a real issue that’s affecting millions of people and making them feel less included at special times like Christmas.

“It’s simply not good enough that brands and online stores aren’t taking a more inclusive approach to their packaging. At DS Smith we are passionate about offering packaging solutions that help everyone. We have engineered boxes that are easier to open and typefaces that make products easier to identify. These not only benefit those who struggle with grip strength or sight problems, they make life a bit easier for the majority of the population.”

The cost of problem packaging

The cost of the issue isn’t just emotional, it's also financial – with problem packaging discouraging consumers from buying particular brands and purchasing from online stores.

Indeed 28% of Brits say frustrating packaging has put them off buying the same brand again, and a fifth (21%) said they have not ordered a product online because of concerns about being able to open it. With the average cost of these lost sales coming to £112 each, problem packaging could be costing companies a whopping £1.5billion a year.

This huge figure doesn’t even consider the two-fifths (43%) who would be more likely to rebuy a brand that had packaging which was easy to get into.

Robyn Macdonald, Inclusive Design Lead at DS Smith added, “The rise of e-commerce is meant to make getting what you need easier than ever – but as this research shows many brands and online shops are falling at the last hurdle: making the packaging easy to open. With Brits reporting issues with one in every six products it is this ignorance that is hitting them in the pocket and potentially costing them billions of pounds.”

As part of DS Smith’s research into the frustration around opening packaging, it’s team of experts have given their top tips for getting into the most frustrating parcels and packing:

  1. If there’s too much tape and you’re struggling to peel it off, push down on the points either side of the tape where the side of the box meets the top. This will create a gap between the tape and the box so you can grab the tape and peel it off.
  2. For hard plastic packaging, a can opener with a safety cap can help to open them up. Simply place it on the edge, then work your way around the pack.
  3. If heating the lid with warm water doesn’t work, you can unseal stubborn jars by getting a little creative with duct tape. Line the bottom edge of the tape with the bottom of the lid and wrap the tape around a third of the lid. Push it down across the lid and fold the excess tape in half. Now grab the excess tape and pull it to loosen the lid.
  4. If small items are proving tricky to grip, try wrapping rubber bands around them. For bigger items consider wearing washing up gloves to improve your grip.
  5. If you can’t get a grip on the sticky tape or a well stuck down envelope, give it a blast with a hot hairdryer – the heat will loosen the bond between the glue and the packaging making it much easier to lift off.
  6. For tough to grip ring pulls (on canned foods and drinks), use a teaspoon as a lever to gently lift the ring pull up so it is easier to pull back..

About DS Smith:

DS Smith is a leading provider of corrugated worldwide, supported by recycling and papermaking operations. Headquartered in London and a member of the FTSE 100, DS Smith focuses on creating innovative sustainable packaging solutions in 37 countries employing around 31,000 people. Using the combined expertise of its divisions – including Packaging, Recycling, Paper – DS Smith works with customers to deliver solutions that reduce complexity and deliver results throughout the supply chain. Its history can be traced back to the box-making businesses started in the 1940s by the Smith family.