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Is this new packaging taking the biscuit?

McVitie's biscuits

Packaging can be a key ingredient in influencing what we buy. But as our guest author and community member Roger Pittock explains, some packaging redesigns can really take the biscuit.

Have you noticed a detrimental change to how McVitie’s Biscuits are wrapped of late?

It was only after two packs fell from my cupboard within a few weeks of one another (whereas none had in the previous 20 years) that I realised the packaging had changed. And from a consumer perspective I think it’s for the worse.

Poor packaging

Cheddar biscuits

Old heat-staked packaging

Historically McVitie’s Digestives (and countless other biscuits by several manufacturers) have been sold in cylindrical packaging, with the ends neatly and tautly dressed and glued (or heat-staked) down.

This time-honoured approach provides for easy storage on end without fear of an accidental topple. It also allows for an easy opening with a knife cut laterally between biscuits, either half way down or a couple from one end.

About six months ago, McVitie’s biscuits appeared on the shelves with slack packaging and ends squeezed together in a crimp. They call it Flow Wrap Packaging.

That’s a bad wrap

Flow wrap biscuits

New Flow Wrap packaging

Ignoring the cost of new machinery, this new method probably saves money or time. However, I wonder how much additional breakage this style of packaging creates in the home due to toppling, and how much additional frustration is incurred in opening the biscuits?

I’ve found that it’s no longer safe to stand these on end as the crimp has a habit of springing to life even after flattening, precipitating a topple.

Furthermore, using a knife to open the biscuits no longer readily produces a clean cut. This new style wrap is no longer taut and the plastic cylindrical sleeve indents, caressing the blade and making it substantially more difficult to produce a clean cut.

After a brief check on shelves I spotted that some own brands (Tesco is one) have also adopted this clumsy packaging method too. Whereas others (Sainsbury’s) and other major brands (Jacobs) maintain the traditional packaging, which I find far more accessible.

So, I would like to know if anyone else experienced these issues; have you spotted any packaging changes, or difficult to open packages?

This is a guest contribution by Roger Pittock. All opinions are Roger’s own, not necessarily those of Which?

Comments
Member

Those little round or square plastic pots of dips and salad accompaniments.

Some come with a lid, some come with a plastic film with info printed on a sticky strip, others come with a plastic film and cardboard outer wrapper.

If you don’t use the product all in one go, the only way to reseal the pot is to use cling film. It is impossible to cut a small square out of cling film so most of the strip ends up in the bin – such a waste.

So not only does the plastic film lid go to waste, the cling film also goes to waste.

Manufacturers should be looking at reducing waste so can they all come with a resealable lid please? At least they can be recycled.

Member

The old packaging of McVitie’s biscuits offered very little protection to the biscuits and I had assumed that the new packaging was to provide some cushioning against impact when the packets of biscuits are put in boxes for transporting to supermarkets etc. It is not ideal for protection because the edges of the end biscuit in the back are still very vulnerable.

My approach is to store unopened cylindrical packs of biscuits on their sides, oriented in a way that they cannot roll out of the cupboard.

Member

We don’t buy many biscuits, but they do get stored on their sides or in a tin.

It is also a good idea to open them with scissors not a knife. Apart from being safer, you get a much cleaner edge so the packet can be resealed with a clip.

Member

Easier to open the new with scissors than the new with a knife… presumably by cutting off one end? And to do this one has to grab the crimped bit and pull it tight – with risk that scissors’ blades slip toward the free hand. Overall still less safe.

Member

I agree, Alfa. I had not thought about it but the new packet design is easier to open with scissors.

Member

The loose wrapper gives no greater protection to the sides and applies forces at skew angles to the end biscuits which are most vulnerable (and once chipped, the next ones down, and so on).

Storing them on their sides is wasteful of cupboard space – unless of course you have cupboard shelves only a few inches deep!

Member

I recently had some Mc’Vs chocolate (milk & plain) for the first time in a long while: is it my imagination that the chocolate depth?

Member

nasp12, try M&S – cheaper, and in my view nicer, and in standard packaging.

Member

Shrink wrapped bacon, fish and poultry sometimes take a brutal stab to get through the wrapping, especially when the corner of the pack refuses to budge, and, of course, there are no opening instructions anyway. Away from food, some sealed electrical and computer products are well nigh impossible to penetrate without scissors and the risk of injury on sharp edges as one mangles the plastic.
Some cellophane food packages, round nuts for example, sometimes pull apart and sometimes don’t, and those that are supposed to tear vertically often wont and need scissors. There is always a need for a dust pan and brush when opening rice by hand. Ring pull cans are good for me, but not for anyone with weak fingers or wrists and if the juice is at the top, care has to be taken when opening. Some plastic fruit bottles and coffee jars have seals that refuse to pull off and the manufacturers don’t provide tabs to help, so one ends up using finger nails or another stab with a knife. Flour bags and sugar bags are guaranteed to leak when opening. All part of life’s rich pageant. Let’s praise those that get it right, too. Those who have sat down and thought it through. Butt