Someone said, appearances can be deceiving. Some others say, judge a book not by its cover, but by its contents. All these propositions sound very logical. However, FMCG companies may strongly disagree, invest as they do heavily into packaging designs and strategies as integrated part of their brand offerings. And cement companies in general — particularly those focused on creating and nurturing premium brands — would also like to believe that packaging is as important as the cement itself, nicely packed inside.
All this is true for markets where cement has more retail customers than bulk/institutional customers. For example, packaging designs do not have much impact in the matured markets of Europe, USA, Japan and Australia, where hardly any cement gets sold through retailers. The only cement packaging we would see in these countries are truck/rail mounted bulk cement carriers. On the other hand, in markets like Mexico, Thailand or Indonesia, and of course, India, which are predominantly retail markets, cement bags are important. Manufacturers aim to communicate messages and information through every aspect of a bag, such as bag weight, material selection, colour and graphic design, textual matter, etc.
Take for example, the weight. In our country, we only have 50 kg cement bags, but there are markets where 10 or 25 kg cement bags are also used. Also, for niche products like white cement, plastering putty, waterproofing cements, smaller packages are prevalent even in India. Look at the choices of bag materials — statutory jute bags have mostly given way to more modern HDPE bags, and AD Star bags have emerged as a variant with the advantage of additional lining which prevents seepage and loss.
But the most elegant packaging option for cement is paper bags. Paper bags not only look good, but they also prevent leakage and offer better print quality. These are the reasons why almost all premium cement brands deploy paper bags to give their cement a pricey look and feel.
All said and done, plain vanilla HDPE bags remain the mainstay of cement packaging in India. Lately, some larger options such as one tonne or 500 kg bulk bags, bottom-opening bulk bags, etc., have emerged, but these are yet to get traction due to handling limitations. Likewise, the concept of automated palletising and stretch wrapping of cement bags has also failed to pick up pace due to inadequate pallet handling facilities en route storage locations. Over time, as these newer modes gain prevalence, cement bagging and handling practices may undergo sweeping changes. Therefore, we find it quite relevant to take you this time into the world of cement packaging, to understand a little bit about the various options, nuances, and linkages of packing modes with handling, storage and transportation approaches. Hope you find this an interesting read.