Consumers have changed the way we look at packaging. Demands for online purchases, sustainability, and convenience are spurring innovative packaging, allowing the industry to innovate in ways that did not seem possible a few years ago.
Technology is allowing us to develop packaging solutions that are more convenient, sustainable, and holistic. Design and usability are being optimized to innovate and create efficiencies in an industry that historically sold the majority of product bulk. Packaging integration is at the forefront of product development, according to Brand Packaging Product.
New advances in packaging design, as well as in equipment and processing technologies, are creating a greater need for fully integrating communication across marketing, branding and packaging.
Packaging, whether in the store or on the doorstep, provides a mix of functionality and aesthetics. E-commerce forces us to rethink how we provide sufficient product protection throughout the last mile of the supply chain - from the warehouse to the consumer. At the same time, we must continue to deliver a positive brand experience. Designing standardized packaging for e-commerce to withstand shipping, streamline distribution and enable cross-brand bundling is critical, according to Packaging World
. E-commerce is also creating changes in secondary and tertiary packaging with concerns for speed and flexibility of packaging equipment, and the durability, size, sustainability and presentation of the shipping case. As a result, Packaging World
reports demand for protective packaging in the U.S. will grow 4.9 percent per year to $6.8 billion by 2019.
Flexible protective packaging products, including protective mailers, bubble packaging, air pillows, paper fill products, etc., are expected to dominate due to cost efficiency and versatility. Foam protective packaging—including insulated shipping containers, molded foams, foam-in-place polyurethane, rolled foam, and loose fill—is expected to be the second largest share of total demand.
Though it shares a common goal with sustainable practices like source reduction and waste consciousness, “lightweighting” refers to the ability to create lighter, more efficient versions of a particular package, according to Assemblies Unlimited
. Packaging Europe
identified lightweighting to be one of the most important considerations throughout the value chain - not only in material development but also for packaging design and logistics. Aside from the need to meet environmental standards, this continuing trend also helps the industry be more competitive and increase efficiencies. Reduced costs are realized through less material consumption and greater shipping efficiency, which benefit the environment and increase profitability. As a cost reduction strategy, lightweighting is not a revolutionary concept. However, modern consumers’ concern for the environment and commitment to sustainability give packagers additional reasons to embrace efficiently produced, lightweight packaging alternatives. Lightweighting also includes reducing the size of packaging to fit the product, which meshes well with the minimalistic packaging trend.
Food Safety and Waste
Increasing demands for food safety and waste reduction are propelling active and intelligent packaging technologies. According to Smithers Pira
, a leading market research firm specializing in packaging, active packaging protects against oxygen and moisture, thus increasing the shelf life of a product. The global active packaging market value is forecasted to grow at an annual rate of 4.9 percent to $5.6 billion by 2021.
Intelligent packaging, including freshness sensors, alerts consumers regarding the shelf life of their food in order to avoid early disposal and excessive purchasing, according to Brand Packaging
. It communicates information to consumers based on its ability to sense or detect changes to a product’s environment. The global intelligent packaging market value is forecasted to grow at an annual rate of 18 percent to almost $2 billion by 2021, according Smithers Pira.
The high cost of active and intelligent packaging restrained growth in the past, according to Smithers Pira. However, the unit cost of smart tags and labels are going down. Intelligent packaging is expected to be a high-growth market with developments in printed electronics, Cloud computing and the Internet of Things. Although active packaging is a relatively mature market in comparison, there are good growth opportunities in niche markets, according to Smithers Pira.
Health and Wellness
A clean and clear label is becoming the global standard for food products in an effort to meet consumer demand for transparency from farm to table, according to vikingmasek.com. This means the story of the product is easy to find and understand via the label. It also requires clearer and simpler claims. Consumers want the story behind the product, the nutritional information and a clear window to view the products within to determine freshness. In response to consumer demand for less packaging overall, companies are replacing labels completely with laser mark that results in savings on the stickers, plastic, energy and CO2 emissions, according to the theguardian.com.
Convenience features such as easy-to-open, re-sealable, portability and one-handed use continue to drive innovation. Single-serve and controlled portion packaging appeals to different consumer demographics. They allow consumers to snack without being concerned with measuring to determine the nutritional content of a single serving size. They are also portable and convenient. To overcome the waste issue, environmentally responsible packaging formats are becoming the standard. According to foodprocessing.com
, refrigerated entrees are utilizing dual-compartment trays that contain a fresh vegetable in one compartment and a ready-to-cook protein and starch in the other to allow for optimal heating of the different food components. Functional packaging is becoming the norm with attached utensils and containers serving as the eating vessel.