Packaging – Accessible design – Ease of opening

Easy OpenSociety is ageing, it is estimated that by 2020 half the adult UK population with be over 50. As we age we have a corresponding reduction in our strength, dexterity and a reduction in visual acuity and some cognitive functionality. Basically, we're not as strong, less able to manipulate things and generally don't remember things as quickly or as well as we age. This creates a problem for healthcare systems as we have older people living longer with a likelihood of living in poor health for significant portion of their lives. It creates a problem for food service providers as older people are more likely to encounter problems accessing and using packaged food.

In 2015 the ISO 17480, Packaging – Accessible design – Ease of opening, was launched to aid manufacturers, brand owners, designers and others to produce packaging that better met the needs of consumers and in particular older consumers. The ISO standard has a user test protocol as part of document and an initial study revealed that it's likely that the issue of accessibility for single portion packaging is quite a significant. Eleven random packs were selected for initial testing and of those eleven; five were found to be uopenable by some proportion of the participants and a further two whilst be openable scored poorly.

This highlights the possible scale of the problem and the need for change. To that end the Taskforce is working with the HCA and the NHS to implement the testing process into the packaging food purchasing supply chain.

A 'handbook' that explains more about the problem, the detail of the testing process and useful contacts is available here to download.

Alaster Yoxall

Dr Alaster Yoxall is a Principal Research Fellow in the Art and Design Research Centre (ADRC), based within Sheffield Hallam University. He has been looking at the issues of 'openability' for over 10 years with a number of projects developing a fundamental knowledge of the mechanics of consumer packaging, including the development of bespoke strength measuring devices, measuring dexterity and the relationship to packaging accessibility and the use of eye-tracking to enhance packaging information for people with reduced visibility.

Alaster has worked with international brand owners and packer-fillers on developing more inclusively designed packaging and has presented his work in the USA, Europe, Australia and Thailand. He has been involved in the development of both the ISO and CEN standards on pack accessibility

The following suppliers have all passed the ISO

Premier FoodsPremier Foods logo

As one of Britain’s largest food producers, Premier Foods remains committed to providing quality brands and solutions that caterers can rely on. Being an original member of the Packaging Task Force, we are dedicated to working collaboratively with the industry to identify and improve packaging accessibility for older people and those with disabilities.

Our Ambrosia Rice Pots and Ambrosia Custard Pots were tested by Sheffield Hallam University last year. We are delighted to say that our Ambrosia 120g pots passed with flying colours and we are looking forward to working with NHS Supply Chain, the Hospital Caterers Association and the National Association of Care Caterers to promote the benefits of the ISO Test.


JuiceworksD-Zert logoJuiceworks logo

Team Juiceworks take patient feeding very seriously & were therefore delighted when given the opportunity to join the Packaging Forum which has helped us further understand the broader issues contributed to by inaccessible packaging.

For many years we have worked independently to measure & improve the ease of opening of our range of pre-portioned Juices, Jelly & Desserts. Despite the many other considerations we are challenged which may require packaging to be adapted to help support longer shelf life or improved to enable clearer graphics we always bear one thing in mind. We work hard to produce nutritious products for patients & therefore if they cannot open the packaging there is little point in doing what we do.

We are therefore delighted that our Juiceworks Juice Portions and DZERT Jelly & Desserts pass the ISO-17480 standard. We recognise that as the standard improves so too must our packaging so we will continue to work with our supplier partners to ensure we drive improvement.

The ISO testing was conducted by Sheffield Hallam University who are keen to promote the huge benefits of working towards this standard.

NHSSC the HCA are also working hard to raise awareness for caterers by highlighted the availability of compliant products.


Unilever Food Solutions
Unilever logo

At Unilever we meet everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life.

As a founder member of the NHS Packaging Taskforce we are proud to be making a tangible difference to people in hospital care; improving overall wellbeing as individuals can independently open the FLORA and MARMITE portions presented to them and therefore consume the full nutrition benefits within. 

Our FLORA and MARMITE portions were tested by Sheffield Hallam University quickly and efficiently with meaningful feedback at the end of the process. We look forward to working with NHS Trusts, NHS Supply Chain, the HCA and other key stakeholders to promote the benefits of this ISO Test for all.

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