- Packaging is an industry unto itself.
- Packaging design is a critical aspect of marketing.
Adam Peek is the Senior Vice President of Sales at Meyers, a TEDx speaker, a podcast host, and a pastor. As the host of the People of Packaging podcast, he interviews people in the packaging industry. What’s that? You didn’t know there was such a thing?
If you stop and look around your environment, you’ll realize that everything around you required packaging to get there. It had to be transported, it had to be put on a pallet, it had to be put into a box, which had to have a label, which had to have some sort of tape on it, which had to have void fill and all sorts of things. Most people don’t realize that there’s an Inception-ary world to packaging.
If there was ever an industry that meets the cliche of being “hidden in plain sight,” the packaging industry is it. It’s almost a trillion-dollar-a-year global industry that we don’t typically think about. Yet, it impacts every area of our lives. How often have we struggled to open a bottle that should have been easy to open, or needed scissors to cut into the plastic container containing something that we really need?
It’s one of those industries that most people really don’t think about because chances are unless they live in certain parts of the country or went to certain schools, they don’t know anyone who works in the industry. It’s steel and aluminum and PVC that shrinks over the cap of a bottle and even the tiny little label that is only used internally to understand where something is on a pallet.
Adam’s journey into packaging was not a direct one. He was a volunteer pastor of a church in Colorado Springs and worked full time in the packing industry. He was given the opportunity to speak at a cannabis business conference about packaging, which led him to help an organization figure out how to lower its carbon footprint for nutraceutical packaging. He realized that no one outside of the industry knew it even existed, so he became “the packaging pastor.”
I was talking to companies about industrial packaging to get something from point A to point B in the most efficient manner, and I realized I was hanging out with the coolest, most interesting people on the planet. So I chose to press into that, to learn more about their world, to empathize with what they were doing. I just wanted to look into their world and see how we can change the world together, and packaging is a really big part of that.
“Packaging” is an umbrella term; there is retail packaging, e-commerce packaging, and many others. Although one might think of boxes and plastic, Adam says there is more to it than that.
When you’re working with a company on their packaging, there are a lot of things to consider, relative to how their product is going to be bought. If you have a direct consumer in a retail strategy, the product has to support single shipments, which means the packaging has to withstand going through a warehouse. There are structure elements like that to consider, and there are degrees—you can get a Ph.D. in packaging engineering from Michigan State University that only deals with the structural elements and materials that go into protecting the products inside.
Whether he’s speaking at TEDx, pastoring, or hosting his podcast, Adam spends his days working hard at Meyers to make it a leader in sustainable packaging through training and coaching efforts.
Links and important mentions
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Note: This transcript may contain some minor wording and formatting errors. Apologies in advance!
Todd Nienkerk: Welcome to The Future of Content. I’m your host, Todd Nienkerk. Every episode we explore content—its creation, management, and distribution—by talking with people who make content possible. Our goal is to learn from diverse perspectives and industries to become better creators. The Future of Content is brought to you by Four Kitchens. We build digital content experiences for ambitious organizations.
Today, I’m joined by Adam Peek, the host of the People of Packaging podcast, and we’re going to be talking about packaging and packaging design. Welcome to The Future of Content, Adam.
Adam Peek: Hey, thanks, I’m excited to be here. It’s fun to be interviewed and not on the other side.
Todd Nienkerk: So that’s right, you’re used to being on the other side of the mic, talking to other packaging people about packaging. So, myself and our listeners, we don’t really know anything about packaging. What does it mean to be a packaging designer and what do you do on a daily basis?
Adam Peek: Yeah. So you don’t think that you know a lot about packaging until you realize that one, everybody buys packaging. So you own packaging. So you are a packaging buyer. You’re a packaging user. So you’re the one who’s just like, “I can’t get this plastic off these scissors.”
Todd Nienkerk: Like, if I need the scissors—
Adam Peek: “I need the scissors to open up the packaging. That’s why I bought the scissors in the first place!” So you know about it. You get the boxes from ecommerce that are 50 times too big and you’re like, “Why did I need all of this?” and “Did I pay for it, and what do I do with all these peanuts that are spilling out all over the place?” All of that is packaging.
Wherever anybody is listening to this, if you just stop and you kind of look around your environment, realize that everything around you required packaging to get there. So it had to be transported, it had to be put on a pallet, it had to be put into a box, which had to have a label, which had to have some sort of tape on it, which had to have void fill and all sorts. And then what you don’t realize is that there’s this whole other Inception-ary world to packaging, which is all of the raw materials to make all of that to get to the manufacturer all needed packaging as well. And it just keeps on…
Todd Nienkerk: Packaging all the way down.
Adam Peek: … It just keeps on going down. Yeah. So it’s almost a trillion-dollar global industry, and it’s one of those industries that people don’t really think about honestly, because chances are, unless you live in certain parts of the U.S., or you went to certain schools, you don’t know people who work in the industry. But it’s a really large global—
Todd Nienkerk: It’s paper, it’s cardboard, it’s petrochemicals, and all kinds of stuff.
Adam Peek: Yes. Steel and aluminum, and all the way down to small PVC that shrinks over the cap of a bottle to a tiny little label that is being only used internally to understand where something’s at on a pallet. All of it is considered packaging.
And so it’s a really large industry, and even I didn’t realize how large it was until I really dove into the industry. So I’ve been working in it for about 14 years, but it was only about seven years ago that I was like, “I’m all about this industry.” Before it was a job, and then it just became this sort of passion of mine because—
Todd Nienkerk: What tipped it?
Adam Peek: So I had an opportunity. So I’m actually a trained pastor, so that was my background. I’m an ordained minister, and I still get to preach and I still get to do— It’s not like I was a pastor and I have some sort of story where I’m just like, ah, like middle fingers to the sky, like guns blazing and left the church. Some people have that story. That’s not mine. So I’m still actively involved in church and nonprofits and things like that. So I had an opportunity to pivot out of the packaging industry into sort of full-time vocational ministry. And so it’s sort of this pivot point in my life.
At the time I was, I was a volunteer pastor at a church in Colorado Springs and I was working a full-time job in the packaging industry. And when that moment came, and I thought this would be the easy answer, the easy answer should be, you know, you follow your heart or whatever. The Disney princess theology of like, you just just pursue your dreams. Like, I didn’t dream of being a packaging professional. I dreamed of being an NBA player. And then when I realized that was not going to happen, I really wanted to be a pastor. But it was in these meetings that I started to have where it’s like, man, I’m speaking— Like I was, I got to speak at a cannabis business conference about packaging. And then I was also helping somebody solve sustainability problems on lowering their carbon footprint for nutraceutical packaging. And then you’re talking with companies doing industrial packaging to get something from point A to point B and in the most efficient manner. And I started to realize I get to hang out with some of the coolest, most interesting people on the planet that nobody ever knows about. And so I chose to press into that—to learn more about their world, to empathize with what they were doing. And so I became the packaging pastor. I really just wanted to look into their world and to see how we can change the world together and packaging is a really, really big part of that.
Todd Nienkerk: And so packaging is— As a layperson, when I hear packaging, I think of people buying wine because of the label, or like the experience of unboxing an Apple product
Adam Peek: Or unboxing their wine, if you like boxed wine like I do.
Todd Nienkerk: Franzia. Yeah. There’s a whole podcast there. But it’s also, it’s shipping, it’s international commerce, it’s logistics. You mentioned void fill earlier, and that’s one of those terms that, like I remember reading once, like at a UPS store, and I immediately knew what they meant, but it’s just such— Void fill. You have a void that needs to be filled. Stuff it full of peanuts.
Adam Peek: Yeah, don’t fill it with alcohol. That’s my advice. Yeah, that’s right.
Todd Nienkerk: So I guess as a layperson thinking about packaging like, “Wow, that looks really cool,” or the packaging has to have a commercial aspect, it has to be a sales tool unto itself. You’re walking down a supermarket aisle and you are bombarded with choice. It’s almost infinite.
If you were trying to make a logical decision, it could take you hours. What cereal are you going to get? The one highest fiber, lowest in sugar, or cheapest per ounce? But something about that packaging has to convince you to pick the Corn Pops instead of the Frosted Flakes. In that aspect of packaging, is there a name for like that kind of packaging in the packaging world? Some might be industrial, and that’s called “blank.”
Adam Peek: Yeah, it’s a really creative name. We go with “retail packaging.” And then there’s also “e-commerce packaging,” so we haven’t gotten too creative.
So yeah, because of, for example, how e-commerce has exploded onto the scene really during COVID. But even before COVID, it’s not like Amazon just showed up during COVID, it’s been around for a while. So when you’re working with a company on their packaging, there’s a lot of things to consider relative to how it is that their product is going to be bought.
So for example, if you have a direct consumer in a retail strategy, then you know it’s got to withstand single shipments. So it’s got to withstand being able to go through a warehouse. So there’s structural elements to packaging because there is there’s whole degrees, there are you can get a Ph.D. from Michigan State University in packaging engineering that only deals with the structural elements and the materials that go into protecting that product inside. Because the most unsustainable, uneconomical thing that can happen is for a product to leave where it is manufactured, if it’s an electronic or if it’s food or if it’s whatever. And to arrive at its destination broken, damaged or unusable, because then it just has to be shipped back and all that energy and all that time and all that money that went into the manufacturing is now gone. Not to mention all of the poor customer reviews, the bad customer experience, all of that sort of stuff. So there is the—
Todd Nienkerk: So e-commerce packaging—is it mostly logistical in the sense of OK, e-commerce stuff is probably going to go through the wringer a bit more when it comes to things like the supply chain? Or are we talking websites at this point? Like is the website a form of packaging?
Adam Peek: Yeah, so for example, if we’re going to go into like the digital form of packaging, you need to design your packaging such that it’s easily photographed so that people can see what it is in like a thumbnail. So this is all changed, whereas before it was so focused on that store shelf—like you’ve got to stand out from your competition, and it’s still true. I mean, you still have the wine industry is a perfect example. People still just go buy wine. If you’re like me, I do buy boxed wine. But for the most part, if I’m going to buy wine for somebody else who doesn’t like box wine, I’m like, OK, what’s the cheapest? What’s the most expensive? And then what has the coolest label? And I used to work for a company who printed wine labels. I know the game, I know what’s happening, and I’m like, yep, that’s the coolest label, and I’m out. We’re like 19 Crimes. When they had augmented reality on their label.
Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, yeah, that was a good one.
Adam Peek: Right? So I would go and I’d buy 19 Crimes because I thought it was really cool and their sales skyrocketed because of that. And then other companies tried to do it, and it was like, “Look, the bird’s flapping its wings.” And I’m like, “Nobody cares about that. Like 19 Crimes is cool and your AR sucks.”
So, yeah, there’s still that element of the retail part of the experience. I mean, people forget that Amazon did buy Whole Foods and didn’t just shut it down. Like, we still know that people are going to go to stores and buy things, specifically in food. But the e-commerce thing has now meant that you are you’re competing for attention on the home shelf, and the and the experience of unboxing has become not only critically important in our industry, but think about the fact that the the wealthiest YouTuber is a kid who made a grip load of money unboxing toys and talking. We’re talking about Ryan’s World, right? That’s how he started, was unboxing toys. And so this unboxing experience has become social. There’s a virality to it online. There’s a digital component to it. And then there’s just the aesthetics. Everybody loves the Apple box, which just sort of like slides open and people keep their Apple packaging. They sell their Apple packaging.
Todd Nienkerk: Do they really?
Adam Peek: Oh yeah, go on eBay. You can buy Apple packaging.
Todd Nienkerk: Oh, I could have sold all that!
Adam Peek: You could have. I don’t know how much you would have gotten, but you could have sold it. Yeah, sorry.
Todd Nienkerk: I mean, it’s good. It’s really good. I also noticed that they switched to more paper-based stuff instead of plastic. Is that sort of an ecological thing— I noticed, like the film that’s on it is actually it sort of tears like paper not like plastic.
Adam Peek: Oh, fascinating. I haven’t noticed that yet, but it could be. So there’s a lot of companies today who are putting out these pledges, like sustainability pledges for 2025 and 2030. And just a note to everybody who has a 2025 sustainability pledge: If you end up listening to this podcast, you’re probably not going to hit it and you need to tell everybody that there’s a whole bunch of studies out there right now, these companies that are struggling.
Todd Nienkerk: So why is that? Why aren’t they able to hit it?
Adam Peek: They’re not able to hit it because of the economics of supply and demand.
So if you say, for example, “We’re going to have X amount of this term called ‘post-consumer recycled content,’” meaning it’s gone through, it’s been consumed. So think about it like a plastic water bottle. It’s used, it’s recycled. That’s then ground up into what’s called flakes and then that can be remanufactured into a clear peat. And so they’re committing to all of this post-consumer stuff. But the recycling infrastructure isn’t there globally, so there’s actually not enough supply to meet all of these promises.
Todd Nienkerk: Oh, I see. There’s just not enough stuff to be recycled, correct?
Adam Peek: Well, there is. It’s just not getting recycled or, it’s not getting recycled effectively. That’s a whole other, that’s a whole other topic to get into.
Todd Nienkerk: There’s a will, but not a way?
Adam Peek: Yeah. So everybody wants it. For example, one company at one point in time bought up the global supply of post-consumer recycled high-density polyethylene, which is HDPE. We just said we’ll take it all to meet their demands. So that meant that everybody else who had that, they couldn’t get it because one company said, “We’re just going to buy it all.”
Todd Nienkerk: One company that I’m aware of that’s changing how they’re doing packaging for similar reasons. So Lego. As you can probably tell, those listening can’t see, but there’s a bunch of Lego stuff behind me, I’m a bit of a Lego fan. You know, there’s these big cardboard boxes and then within them there are these plastic bags and they’re numbered. Well, they’re switching to paper bags. And in the Lego, guess what? There’s a whole world of Lego people in the community, and they argue about stuff and whatever. And some people love it and some people hate it because they hate that this is going to put a dent in what’s called the built-in bag phenomenon where you buy poly bags of Legos and you assemble them inside the bag without opening it. And it’s sort of like a parlor trick. But you can’t do that when it’s a paper bag because one, you can’t see anything that’s inside—you can’t actually work it. And secondly, it’s more likely to tear.
Something I’ve noticed about Lego products that seems to be kind of, I don’t know, maybe representative of packaging as a whole is when you open a Lego box, it’s a good 50 to 75 percent dead space. And the more expensive a LEGO set is, the bigger the box is, but not necessarily the more stuff that’s in it. So is there a psychology to retail where the box just has to be big if I’m going to spend that amount of money?
Adam Peek: Yes, so I can’t speak for Lego specifically, but there is certainly a big drawback to making your packaging the right size. From a purely from a marketing standpoint, so, there’s a lot of things to consider with the size of a box specifically for somebody like Lego, because there are there’s potentially planograms that are at retailers, meaning how the how it’s going to sit on a shelf and they they can they can fit X amount of boxes across a shelf and they have eight feet of shelf space. And so therefore, if they make the box smaller, it’s just going to leave dead space on the shelf. And then, you know, Target is going to be mad. So, they have to make the box to fit that, that shelf space for that one row of boxes. And then if there’s the bigger boxes down low that they’ve got, you know, they’re going to put four Harry Potter castles or whatever it is across the bottom. And so they need to maximize that space, both from a height and from a width standpoint. So that’s the thing that does happen pretty regularly.
The unfortunate thing is that in order to make that happen, there’s a lot of sacrifices that are made from a logistics standpoint. So these are all going to ship on a pallet. And you’re going to put all these into a master box. Those master boxes are going to go on a pallet. They’re going to be stacked all the way up. Those pallets are going to go into a semi truck, those semi trucks are going to be full and then those semis are going to deliver to a distribution center and on and on and on. So the logistics of this means that that whole process is now less efficient because you can’t fit as many boxes on there. And so your carbon impact of that is going to go up and the cost is going to go up, your cost per unit—
Todd Nienkerk: Cost of shipping is going to go up .
Adam Peek: And all of that is passed on to you, as the Lego fanatic. So you end up paying for that, all in the cost of your box.
Todd Nienkerk: That’s upsetting because a lot of people complain about like, “I opened this bag of potato chips and it’s mostly air.”
Adam Peek: Ah, that’s different though.
Todd Nienkerk: Right, it is different, because it’s actually nitrogen, not air. So nothing will grow. And also, it’s so you don’t crush the chips. Am I right about that or am I missing another thing?
Adam Peek: Yeah.
Todd Nienkerk: OK. But with the Lego thing, it’s just a big box and it’s empty. Like, dump it out and you’re like, wait, what?
Adam Peek: Yeah, that’s interesting. I don’t know why that is. I’m just kind of guessing at the planogram thing, honestly. So I don’t know why— I’ve actually never had that thought before, so that’s a really interesting thought. Because I understand from the food perspective why it’s there. I also understand why people get frustrated with it, obviously. But there is a very functional reason that it does exist. The Lego thing is kind of baffling, though.
Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, I wonder if they’re going to change that along with the paper bags and all of that. I mean, they are like they are the largest toy company in the world, and all they do is make plastic all day long. So yeah, yeah, they should, probably—
Adam Peek: Yeah, I think that I think they’ll have to figure it out and it is honestly, they’re a company that has a very large focus on reduction in carbon footprint and things like that. So it wouldn’t surprise me if we started to see that change a little bit more, honestly. But I don’t have any insight.
Todd Nienkerk: They’re starting to experiment in some of the newer sets with sustainably harvested plastics. So they use like, you know, vegetable-based plastics for all the pieces that are like foliage, and like trees, and of course they do. So there’s like there is plant-based plastic that they’re starting to experiment with, but it’s softer. It’s more flexible. It doesn’t quite, you know, it doesn’t have that “click.” Anyway, this podcast is now about Legos.
Adam Peek: And Lego packaging.
Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, let’s take a quick break and reset. And when we come back, we will talk with Adam about— Let’s talk about unboxing, because that’s a whole thing unto itself.
Adam Peek: Let’s do it.
Todd Nienkerk: Hey, everyone, we’ll get back to the episode about Legos in a moment. I wanted to quickly tell you about Four Kitchens. You may know that Four Kitchens creates websites. We have nothing to do with Legos. But we do so much more than just websites. Our team of Web Chefs can help you make better use of your content. We can scale your web team and we can help you create world-class digital experiences. And most importantly, we get results. So to find out how we can help you, please visit us at Four Kitchens. And now back to the episode.
Todd Nienkerk: Welcome back to The Future of Content. Our guest today is Adam Peek, Senior Vice President at Meyers and host of the People of Packaging podcast. Meyers is, for those who don’t know—I didn’t at first—a leading packaging, design, and manufacturing company, and that’s where you are an executive. And so that’s the day job that you wound up taking when you decided to shift from being a pastor to going into packaging?
Adam Peek: Well, I’m recent at Meyers, but I was at a company similar to Meyers.
Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, got it. OK. And then, of course, you are thepackagingpastor.com.
Adam Peek: That’s it.
Todd Nienkerk: So before the break, before we went on a whole tangent about Legos, we were talking briefly about unboxing. And unboxing is, um— My hot take is a lot of people complain about these kids, all they do all day is watch unboxing videos and they watch other people play video games. And I actually like that stuff like, I like watching videos on YouTube of people playing games that I like. I like playing the games, and I like watching people play them, and I like opening stuff, and I like watching people open stuff, and I don’t know why. It feels like junk food almost. It’s like, I know I shouldn’t like this, but I really do, and I just want to watch it all the time. What is it about unboxing videos, from a packaging perspective, that is so enthralling, and that would result in the richest YouTuber being a child that opens toys.
Adam Peek: Well, not only him, but I mean, there are, I forget, I don’t know the exact number, but there’s a certain percentage of the top earners on YouTube who are all unboxing people. And it’s significant. I mean, it’s a significant amount.
So from what I’ve heard about— Now, I do create unboxing content. I do it on TikTok. I’ve got a YouTube channel. I do LinkedIn, or LinkedIn Live, or work with brands. But mine is much different than other people, obviously. So mine’s more of an education around what this is. I’ve got a friend of mine, his name is Evelio Mattos. He hosts the Package Design Unboxd podcast. He’s a great dude. So he and I will team up, because he is a premier packaging designer. So he takes products and will put together— Think like Sonos, or Tiffany, or these kinds of companies. So really a fascinating guy. And so we go through it together with a brand.
So I’m looking at it from a totally different angle than everybody else. And honestly, I don’t watch a lot of unboxing videos, probably because I create so much content around it that I honestly don’t have that much time to consume that type of content.
When I’ve talked to people about the phenomenon, it’s sort of about this idea of mysterious discovery. So a really good unboxing experience has like a pathway to discovery in it. So it’s like you’re going to open up the box and it’s this big thing. And it’s kind of like you almost feel like you’re on a treasure hunt, right? And you get into it and it’s nuanced and it’s progressive and you finally get to the product and you’re like, “Look what this is.” And there’s something very mysterious about it, that’s also kind of enthralling for people because it’s also short, so you don’t have to wait like you have the beginning, which is “big giant box.” And then you have the end, which is “cool little product.” And then you’re done. So that’s my hunch. I’m sure there’s some sort of psychologist somewhere—
Todd Nienkerk: Immediate gratification and it’s consumable in small bits. I mean, the treasure hunt aspect is interesting because— Well, so here’s a question. As a packaging professional, like, unboxing or I let’s not use that word, let’s say, opening a package. Let’s start with that. Before it became unboxing and it was on YouTube and all of this—just opening a package is an experience. And historically, do you know when— Yeah, history pop quiz. Who is the first retailer or manufacturer that decided that the packaging should be part of the product experience? Do you have any idea?
Adam Peek: That is an awesome question, and a point of curiosity that my brain has sadly never gone to, but it will. Because I think it’s super fascinating. Yeah. I don’t know who the first brand would be, but if you think about it, I mean, packaging is a really, really old industry. And it’s very aesthetic, right? So it’s always been about feel and it’s sensory in nature. So it’s you’re touching it and you’re having to open it. And so if you think about even going all the way back to like clay containers like there was and then there’s also this functional part of food preservation. And how do we use this for embalming? And how do we take this oil and make sure that it’s not leaking everywhere and it’s not easily broken when we’re a Bedouin tribe and we need to go from one place to another, right? Like that was all packaging. So I’ll make up an answer that it was in 10,000 B.C. I don’t, I don’t have any idea.
Todd Nienkerk: Decorative, like seed. There’s— I forget what they’re called, but there they were, clay pots where you’d store seeds, you know, for the next season or when you move to the next space to plant a crop. Those are decorated. So that’s, I mean, then it’s probably the same people who use it were the people who made it, I imagine, or highly likely. Not a very long supply chain in those days. So, yeah, it was probably just at the very beginning, as soon as people started putting things in things, that’s when packaging became an experience.
Adam Peek: That’s going to be my new tagline for Meyers, actually. “Meyers: We help people put things in things.”
Todd Nienkerk: You can have that one for free.
Adam Peek: Yeah, thank you. Thank you.
Todd Nienkerk: Are there products—we’ve already kind of talked about, like Apple and things like that—but is there a moment to you that stands out as like a really special or unusual or first experience that you had with packaging that really made you go like, “Wow, this is different or unusual or like, really well done?”
Adam Peek: Yeah, so, I didn’t get into the packaging industry because of that. I got into it because I needed a job—that was really it. There was no— I didn’t like fall in love with packaging first. That kind of came later.
There’s one that sticks out to me. That was the opposite, actually the opposite experience, which is there was a tea in Starbucks and this is when I was in the packaging industry. And in this and it was co-branded with Oprah, and it was in this beautiful, exquisite— It’s called a rigid setup box. So it’s this two-piece telescoping box, kind of like Apple? But it was a little bit different. I like this nice matte paper on it and all these great graphics, and you’d open the thing up/ And I looked at the price point. It was $12. And I looked at my wife and I said, “I bet this tea sucks.” And she’s like, “What?” I’m like, “This box cost $4. And I know retail margin like this, they put all their money into the marketing and all of their money into the partnership with Oprah, and they put it all into that, but they didn’t put it into the tea and I know it.” So in that case, and that product did not last long because apparently, the tea sucked. I didn’t want to buy it because I knew it was going on right. So I could kind of ferret that out versus a $1,200 computer that fits in your pocket and makes phone calls that you can also watch videos on.
Yeah, a $4 box is pretty appropriate for that type of thing, right? Like, that’s fine. So that was kind of the one experience on the negative side, and it’s hard to pinpoint like a really positive experience, just in recent memory with packaging because I have very odd ones. Like when Amazon started using curbside recyclable paper mailers, I was like, I was so excited about that because I was sick of getting all of these, all of these boxes from them. And so I got this mailer and I’m like, “Whoa.” I was pumped because it meant I could take this and now this packaging that I owned. I had a way to dispose of it properly. So that wasn’t like a great unboxing experience. I was just excited for that particular moment the first time I got that type of packaging in the mail. So I know that that’s not— I mean, I wish I could say, like, there’s this brand. Oh, there was one. Blue Land, they make so I bought their dishwasher tablets that came in this reusable tin. And you, it’s a subscription thing, and so they just ship you back these little tiny tablets without any package, or it’s just like bulk packaging and you fill up your tin. And the unboxing experience with that was pretty cool. So I do remember that one.
Todd Nienkerk: The whole tin thing—you don’t see that a lot anymore, but that was a thing. Like, you know, like the cookies and you know, you’d go to your grandma’s house, and you’d find all these cookie tins everywhere and none of them had cookies. They were all filled with, like, so disappointing. Just stuff, just whatever.
Adam Peek: Bills. Like, grandma!
Todd Nienkerk: Not more bills! The whole tin thing, did that just go away because it just wasn’t economical and plastic took over and ultimately people are just like, I hate owning all these because you feel bad throwing it away because it doesn’t recycle. So are you obligated now to keep all of these tin things?
Adam Peek: Yeah. To be fair, it could recycle. And this is a whole part about recyclability. Like, lots of materials can be recycled. The question isn’t can it chemically or can it mechanically be actually recycled? The question is, is there value for recycled tin after it’s gone through the recycling channel? So yeah, I don’t know. I don’t think that there is. I don’t hear a lot about it, but I’m sure that somebody’s figured out a way for it. Yeah. So this is actually the big point of conversation within the packaging community is this idea of reusable packaging. It’s like, well, how much? How many of these tins do you actually need? How many vases will you actually use before you’re like, “I can’t, I can’t keep getting these vases.” Whereas maybe it’s a better idea to put it into clear plastic. That’s a number one or a number two. Those are really the only plastics right now that we can throw in your curbside bin in most municipalities. Outside of that, if you see a three through a nine… it’s probably not getting recycled. Yeah. So anyway, but that’s it’s going to be a little bit better than to just put it in that so someone can take it and we go, OK, I know what to do with this, and they put it in their trash or in the recycle bin, and then it’s gone. But yeah, I like this one because it’s nice because it’s refilled by the company that is sending it to me. Yeah, things and it actually—
Todd Nienkerk: Becomes functional because it’ll always be in that thing, right?
Adam Peek: And I get it my paper. Yeah, it comes in like a paper pouch that I can tear open. I don’t want to keep this pouch because it doesn’t stand up. There’s no rigidity to it, but it’s super easy to ship. It’s like the opposite of the Lego effect that you were talking about, so it ships really easily. I can take it, dump it in my tin, and then I can recycle the bag.
Todd Nienkerk: Hmm. Something I’ve noticed about. Something I like about packaging and I guess I’m a sucker for this, and I imagine a lot of people are, but I really like Easter eggs in packaging, like when you turn over a box and you’re like, let’s say you buy like a six-pack of something and then you look at the bottom of like nobody ever looks at the bottom of the six-pack, right? But like, they’ll do something funny on it. Is there— Do you have any idea besides it just being kind of maybe an inside joke or sort of a brand affinity thing, but like, is there a tradition in the packaging company? Is there a reason why people do it? Or is it just purely like some designer who was sitting in Adobe Illustrator and was like, “Haha, I’m going to just throw something at the bottom of this thing. Very few people will see it, but those who do will get a kick out of it.”
Adam Peek: Yeah, well, especially now with the proliferation of social media. If something like that—like I got a Pillow Cube the other day, and I actually did an unboxing for Pillow Cube, and you could join a secret society of side sleepers, but you had to, like, figure it out on the packaging. And so it was fun. It was experiential. It was this thing that you could do, and it doesn’t cost you anything extra. I mean, outside of if you’re going to do that, you’ve got the software stuff on the back end. But if you’re going to do something just kind of fun and quirky, for the most part, you’re not adding anything extra to the cost to manufacture the box. So why not? Especially if it’s on brand. I mean, there are certain brands that just really couldn’t get away with that. But when you think about Liquid Death, the water company. They’re just putting water in aluminum cans. But it’s but you feel like you’re part of this community when you’re drinking Liquid Death heavy metal water. Like, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something fun and experiential about just owning that, owning that can and killing murdering your thirst, right? Like, they did a great job with branding. And so people buy it and they buy a lot of it, right? The difference between standard-issue wet wipes for wiping your butt, and then like DUDE Wipes comes on and the like. No, we’re going to make DUDE Wipes. Well, it’s still the same.
Todd Nienkerk: It’s a hundred percent packaging. It’s branding, marketing, packaging.
Adam Peek: Yeah, yep, that’s right.
Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, because who wants that like baby blue— Like, you know, it’s and it says “baby” all over it and you’re like, you know.
Adam Peek: But yeah, yeah, I mean, a different scent. I’m just like, there’s different. I’m not saying that the products are all 100 percent exactly the same, but oftentimes they’re really, really close.
Todd Nienkerk: The difference is very, very slight. But huh. Well, let’s leave on this note. What do you think is the future of packaging? You mentioned already that there’s not really a will—there’s a will, but not a way to recycle a lot of packaging and a lot of targets might be off there, so there’s a recycling component manufacturing component to packaging. Is there anything else that you’re seeing in the future of the manufacturing or the design or the experience of packaging that you think is interesting or concerning?
Adam Peek: Oh, so much so buckle up. So I’ll cover it because there are a few really cool things right now that I’m speaking about at different conferences and stuff all across the U.S. hopefully the world that would be really fun, too. But right now, it’s just the U.S.
So the first from just a pure material standpoint is there’s innovation happening today right now around two, I think, really fascinating areas. The number one is carbon capture. So creating materials out of the carbon that’s in the air at large-scale quantities using—one company is using a polymicrobial family through a bioreactor. Don’t ask me. I’m just reporting the news, but it’s super fascinating because it kicks out at the end like a cellulose product that can be turned into a cellulose acetate, which is a film using carbon capture. Yep. Wow. There’s carbon capture vodka. Now there’s a company Airly is doing carbon capture for snack foods. So I think that’s in its infancy, but is going to grow pretty quickly. And I have a lot of hope for that type of technology because—
Todd Nienkerk: So in other words, this is like, OK, maybe I don’t understand carbon capture, but is this like, you buy the machine, you switch it on, and it just pulls a bunch of carbon dioxide out of the air? And then at the end of the machine, it spits out like Saran Wrap.
Adam Peek: Well, I mean, not quite that, but yeah, I mean, you have— The idea is that carbon capture is going to act as sort of like a vacuum. So or a sink, so like kind of what trees are doing, right trees are constantly pulling CO2 out. And so and then we cut them down and turn them into things, obviously. But so this would be a way to pull that CO2 out like a sink or a vacuum. And as long as your process of manufacturing, whatever it is at the end of that process is not releasing more carbon than it’s pulling out—
Todd Nienkerk: Oh, I see.
Adam Peek: Do you know what I’m saying?
Todd Nienkerk: So things must be negative. Ok, yeah.
Adam Peek: So that would be a carbon-neutral or negative process, which is awesome. So there’s work around that. There’s some really fascinating stuff out of the University of Florida. It’s called the Consortium for Waste Circularity, I believe. And they’re working on ways to completely change how stuff gets recycled. And basically saying, we don’t really care what the matter is. They’re using a form of plasma gasification to turn it into. They’re calling it “eco liquid methanol.” So basically, imagine a scenario where you don’t have to worry about sorting all of your stuff and figuring out what goes where. And do I have to rinse this one out? And what do I do with this? And it’s a complicated process. So there’s a world in the future in which you just get rid of all your stuff and then that gets turned into more stuff and it just keeps going in a cycle over and over—kind of like what recycling would be, except for, it’s not plastic into plastic or paper and paper. It’s all of it turned into this thing, and then this thing can be used and turned into all sorts of other stuff.
Todd Nienkerk: Oh, would it be sort of a single uniform matter, just like “stuff version 37,” and that gets remanufactured into whatever?
Adam Peek: Yeah, wow. Yeah. So I’m pretty excited about where those are headed. And then just in terms of things in the future, and I’m actually speaking at an event in March. Well, I don’t know when this podcast will air, so maybe I’ve already spoken at or maybe I will speak at it. I’m not entirely sure. But either way—
Todd Nienkerk: Oh, the Time Traveler podcast.
Adam Peek: I know, I know. I had to tell somebody I was interviewing somebody today when we’re doing this and he’s in Cincinnati and he’s like, “Go Bengals in the Super Bowl.” And I was like, “Bro, this is going to be after. And you’re either going to be really happy or really sad. So just, you know, it does not release right now.” Isn’t that like? But anyway, the convergence of blockchain technology and NFTs as it relates to packaging is a world that I’ve explored. I’ve dove pretty deep into And so the idea would be influencer marketing. So the example I’ve given is you’re Travis Scott and you make a Reese’s box. And Travis Scott has— If you’ve ever seen a box get made, there’s a stuff called makeready, which is just the weird, like, you’re dialing in the colors. And so everything’s off and it looks funky and odd and so you send 100 of these boxes to Travis Scott from the Makeready, just the sheets and you capture him signing off one of 100, two of 100. And he does that. And then you sell it to either, you know, it could be money for Travis Scott or whatever. You sell it as an NFT and a physical item, so you can create these collectible moments of experience using what is traditionally just waste.
Todd Nienkerk: Oh, interesting, yeah, so.
Adam Peek: And so that type of stuff—
Todd Nienkerk: And so the NFT part of it is really just sort of like a certificate of authenticity.
Adam Peek: Correct.
Todd Nienkerk: That’s yeah, OK. Yeah, that’s what I think a lot of people miss about the whole NFT thing. That’s a different— There’s a whole 30 podcasts about that, I’m sure. But like, there actually is a really interesting, valid, like, normal use case for NFTs that isn’t like some celebrity selling a gift.
Adam Peek: Yeah, no, I totally—
Todd Nienkerk: Just authenticity. Yeah, that’s all.
Adam Peek: Yeah, yeah. Authenticity. There’s a company called Nori that is using blockchain to actually tether it to carbon capture, oddly enough. So they’re doing some pretty fascinating work around that. So I think really just looking at this old, older industry, like packaging, and saying, “Well, we’re not slowing down innovation. So how do we—how do we stay up with it in our industry?” And just kind of create those Venn diagrams of convergence.
Todd Nienkerk: Wow. Well, thank you, thank you. Thank you so much, Adam, for joining us today. How can listeners learn more about you? Where can they find your podcast if they’re interested in packaging, what should they do?
Adam Peek: Yeah, the easiest thing is to go to packagingpastor.com, and there’s just sort of a link tree there, so it’s got— To listen to my TEDx Salt Lake City talk, it’s on there. My podcast is on there. Just the link to peopleofpackaging.com. Let’s see what else. On Tik Tok, I’m @packagingpastor, and that’s been a weird, fascinating world. I didn’t know what TikTok was really like five months ago, and now I have like over 10,000 people who follow me on TikTok, so it’s very fascinating. But yeah, and then I’m also very active on LinkedIn, so you can just search my name, Adam Peek, on LinkedIn. And also, that link is at packagingpastor.com. So it’s not the packagingpastor. I’m just packaging pastor.
Todd Nienkerk: That’s a different packaging pastor. You don’t want to mess with that one.
Adam Peek: No, no, no. He’s a straight-up heretic. Or she. I don’t know who he or she is or what. But yeah, I don’t even know if that’s a website. Probably the real deal. Yeah.
Todd Nienkerk: Well, thank you again, Adam. Fascinating. And of course, we’d love to hear from you. Yes, you, dear listener. What do you want to learn about the future of content?
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