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Q&A: How Haney is driving packaging innovation with its Packaging Microfactory concept

Haney co-founder and President Dan Haney discusses how the Packaging Microfactory is helping brands develop and test packaging designed for today’s market, including products optimized for e-commerce.

7 min read


Q&A: How Haney is driving packaging innovation with its Microfactory concept

(Image: Haney)

This post is sponsored by Haney.

As retail channels and consumer shopping habits have changed over the years, so too has brand packaging. In this interview, Haney co-founder and President, Dan Haney, discusses how brand packaging has gone from an afterthought to a key concern for CPG companies. He shares how the company has evolved since its launch in 1990, as a two-person graphic design company, to the first and largest Packaging Microfactory in the world, and how the Microfactory concept drives innovation and speed to market.


What are some of the main takeaways you’ve learned from working with CPG brands and design agencies on brand packaging, and what inspired Haney to rebrand with the Packaging Microfactory concept?

Haney has had the privilege to work with numerous, top-of-mind, global CPG companies over the past 28 years. We’ve witnessed the golden age of brand package design and saw packaging move from a last minute afterthought and backroom function to the boardroom. Leading CPG companies now understand how better packaging can add to the bottom line and help grow their brands.

One of the biggest obstacles, or opportunities, in the brand package development process is showing and sharing your idea in the right context, to the right audience, at the right time. What we have learned is that often, the toughest and most important sale is not downstream to consumers, rather it’s upstream to senior management to gain alignment, funding and essential protection for the treacherous innovation road ahead. Effective prototyping can help everyone understand what’s possible and can inspire, connect and be the spark that ignites the fuel to propel the project forward.

The Packaging Microfactory concept was born out of demand from today’s fast-moving brands for streamlined, efficient capabilities that are easy to understand, easy to engage and enable them to do their jobs with excellence. As a Packaging Microfactory, Haney does not replace large-scale manufacturing, rather it acts as a small-scale production ecosystem, utilizing a hybrid process solution that connects key stakeholders at the right time throughout the development process. The results are amazing. Clients that plug into our Packaging Microfactory platform move to market with incredible speed and enhanced packaging solutions.

At our core we are still a realization company — we help bring ideas to life through informed prototyping and products to market via our small-batch, consumer-usable samples capabilities — this can be one prototype to demonstrate proof of concept or 50,000 consumer-usable packaged product samples for test market.

One feature of the Packaging Microfactory and VIA Alliance Library is the direct connection created between CPG companies and raw materials suppliers. How does this direct access increase packaging options and create opportunities for innovation?

The VIA Alliance library was founded nearly three years ago, and there are currently 43 partners that participate in this one-of-a-kind packaging program. We describe the program as an everyday trade show, where many of the best suppliers in the world exhibit their products and our clients can explore, learn, interact, accurately prototype and commercialize with greater confidence and success.

Acting as a middleman, VIA connects CPG companies and raw material suppliers. In addition to simply introducing new materials, Haney’s Packaging Microfactory allows CPG companies the opportunity to experiment with these materials and technologies through prototyping, print trials and small batch samples for evaluation and test marketing.

VIA is the epitome of a win-win situation for CPG companies and raw materials suppliers alike. Over the years, we have seen that many CPGs do not have a direct relationship with the raw materials providers; rather they work through prepress, printing and converting partners and are only exposed to technology solutions that those suppliers can produce within their ecosystem. This can cause companies to lag behind their competitors due to new-to-the-world packaging solutions that they were not made aware of.

One of the offerings of the Packaging Microfactory is packaging for e-commerce programs. How does packaging designed for e-commerce differ from packaging for traditional retail?

E-commerce and retail packaging have always been one-in-the-same: one SKU, one package, two channels. Today, we see many brands asking the question “should/can they be different?” Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We often refer to e-commerce packaging as the “wild west” in that it’s in uncharted territory and there is much opportunity for the early pioneers — but the pioneers can take the arrows if they are not careful. This is why we are so excited about the opportunities for Haney’s e-commerce packaging offering. We can define our own path by helping big brands feel small, agile and more competitive.

Today we see many CPG’s experimenting with customization and/or hyper-personalization for e-commerce only subscription sales programs. We often find ourselves discussing with our clients the importance, or lack of importance, of effects, finishes, and premium printing.  In our experience, there are three vastly different views on this topic. One camp believes that packaging ordered online with premium printing and decoration surprises and delights consumers leading to repeat purchases. In opposition, we find some clients believe that since the consumer ordered the product without knowing it exhibited premium-printing effects and finishes there is no need to spend additional money on packaging when the sale was already made. The third viewpoint that we often come across is that in lieu of premium printing and effects, money should be spent on developing packaging that’s sustainable or has better performance qualities.

Haney has the ability to design, develop and produce consumer-usable product samples for all approaches. This type of personalized e-commerce program enables CPG companies to establish a new type of brand-to-consumer relationship and gain new insights and data on markets quickly and efficiently. This has become an essential go-to-market tool for many of our global CPG clients.

How does the Microfactory concept, with the entire supply chain represented under one roof, increase speed to market?

Haney has created a scale-up ecosystem for brand packaging. The Haney Packaging Microfactory is the only facility of it’s kind in the world that enables brands to ideate, design, realize, print, pack and ship both primary and secondary packages across a broad array of package formats and products with rigorous FDA regulatory requirements. Connecting key decision makers enables brands to succeed or fail fast and early through informed prototyping, gather key consumer insights through consumer usable product samples and ultimately launch new products and packaging with blazing speed, convenience and confidence. Ultimately, we help brands mitigate and manage risk for their brand package innovation efforts. This is of great value to our clients, and it is why we are able to move quickly from a tactical to a strategic partnership, and develop long-standing, worthwhile relationships with our clients.

Dan Haney is the co-founder and president of Haney, Inc. Together with his brother, Matt Haney, they founded the company in 1990 to serve the brand package innovation, and go-to-market needs, of global billion-dollar consumer packaged goods companies and design agencies. Dan is passionate about building capabilities that connect design, technical packaging and consumer insights teams within CPGs. His objective is to dramatically accelerate brand package innovation and provide essential tools, talent and technologies that enable brands to fully leverage the power of their packaging to delight consumers and drive brand growth.


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