Educating the Next Generation of Packaging Leaders, with Jay Singh, Packaging Program Director, Cal Poly

In this episode of the Beyond the Shelf: Product & Packaging Podcast, Laura Foti spoke with Jay Singh, Director of the packaging program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. We talked about the increasing importance of packaging in organizations, how packaging education has evolved and embraced new technology, and the rise of the conscious consumer.

Posted on 
June 21, 2022
Laura Foti
CMO, Specright

When many people think of packaging, they think of a brown box.  But to Jay Singh, Director of the packaging program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he sees the most important salesperson for a brand.

Considered one of the top experts in the field of distribution packaging globally, Jay has published over 95 peer reviewed articles, 73 articles in conference proceedings, 32 trade journal articles, three book chapters, co-authored two books and edited one book, and he also holds four patents.  

I’ve known Jay for a few years now and have learned so much from him about the value of packaging to consumers and brands. He’s also been at the forefront of adopting and incorporating new technology into the packaging program – we’re grateful to partner with him to bring Specright and ISTA PackSight, powered by Specright, into the classroom.

Below are some highlights from our conversation – you can listen to the full audio on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. And be sure to subscribe to our channel to get the latest episodes as soon as they drop.

You can catch the full episode here – and be sure to leave a rating or review if you liked the show – it helps others find the podcast.

On why packaging engineers need to know digital technology

“Whether we like it or not, we are headed towards the internet of things…We got the fourth industrial revolution where it’s technology industries, societal patents, processes, these are all going to communicate digitally. It’s all connected. And that’s being brought to the forefront with a lot of… With COVID, especially with the labor shortage, with supply chain issues and that’s all technology driven. So whether it’s production or manufacturing or distribution, the digital footprint is getting bigger and bigger.”

On the importance of communicating the value of packaging

“If you’re in a physical product world, everything is packaged. So sell that and have the knowledge on the value proposition the package has. Not just that it is a package, not that it’s something I can get off a catalog. Our students are doing really well in this regard, if they’re going to sales, they’re not selling millions of boxes, they’re selling a solution.”

On how lean manufacturing has backfired for many large brands

“I tend to focus on logistics and supply chains, the evolution. COVID has proven that the lean just in time kind of strategy works great. But if there’s a glitch in the system, it puts out chaos. With the recent infant food, there’s a lot of instances there.”

On the importance of ERP on driving packaging sustainability

“It’s everybody’s responsibility. What EPR is doing is putting manufacturers and marketers or retailers of CPGs on notice. It’s all geared toward circularity. If you look back not so long ago, if a company wanted to show sustainability, they just switched out the material or they light weighted it. That was a quick bandaid. That’s not easy, but it is easier to just switch out the format of the package. You go from rigid to flexible. Yeah. We reduce the weight. So the focus with EPR is recycled content and recyclability. So upstream, downstream, whatever happens in the life cycle of the CPG, it is theoretically in circularity, nothing ever leaves once it gets in. So EPR is a great way for the US to step up to the rest of the world.”

Listen to the whole episode here – and be sure to stay tuned through the end for one of my favorite “Keep, Kill, Change” segments, where we make Jay decide between paper straws, pickles, and the classic post-it note. Which would you pick? Comment on LinkedIn and let me know!


Laura Foti

Laura leads marketing and investor relations at Specright. Prior to Specright, she led advertising and analytics at GE Digital, GE’s Industrial Internet software business. Before that, she was a consultant at Deloitte Digital working in enterprise digital transformation, where she helped clients design and deploy eCommerce experiences, develop revenue-driving mobile apps, and reimagine their global digital marketing strategy. Laura was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for marketing and advertising and Brand Innovators 40 Under 40 and 100 Women to Watch lists. She graduated from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She resides in Newport Beach, CA.

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