Packaging is almost as important as the products inside these days. The external appearance of products before they are opened is a key part of marketing your band. Consumers have a range of expectations when it comes to packaging. As well as the obvious role of protection of items and providing product information, the packaging is the first item the consumer sees, so that first impression is imperative, especially with consumer behaviour moving towards the current trend for ‘unboxing’ videos on social media. Beautiful packaging can generate a sense of theatre and excitement. On the other hand, there are consumers who only care about the environmental credentials and minimal waste. Read on to learn about current key trends in the packaging industry.
Luxurious and extravagant packaging creates a memorable experience and promotes a positive connection with your brand. The same item is going to be much more impactful if it is presented in a cute box with an elegant bow than in a brown paper bag. Luxury packaging no longer belongs solely in the remit of luxury goods such as jewellery either. Luxury touches tend to involve multiple different materials and can range from layers of beautiful tissue paper, papercut designs, exquisite patterns, and scented paper to reusable velvet pouches, premium tubes, and hinge-lid or wooden boxes with handles. Clever design elements also suggest premium packaging, such as a honey pot encased in a wooden hive and a cocktail can tube holder whose lid is a cocktail strainer.
Personalised packaging is a key trend, particularly for e-commerce, where consumers are keen to share photos of packaging on social media. Ideas can range from simple branding using stickers, to including the consumer’s dog’s name on pet purchase packaging or beauty subscription boxes that have different packaging to reflect the season.
Many companies like to include a customised package insert (such as a personalised thank you note, a voucher for future purchases, or a QR code linking to a video) or even include a freebie for new customers too. Another interpretation of bespoke packaging is moving away from the one-size-fits-all boxes and bags to custom-sized paper packaging that fits the product as closely as possible.
Eco-friendly and sustainable packaging
A key trend that’s not going away any time soon is environmentally friendly packaging. Today’s consumers are very eco-conscious, aware of their carbon footprint, and expect businesses to be opting for as green packaging options as possible (and ideally be carbon-neutral); a recent survey indicated that half of the target consumers would pay more for planet-friendly packaging!
Single-use plastic/new plastic packaging is no longer seen as acceptable by most major brands; for example, some companies are moving away from bottled water towards boxed water in cardboard packaging. Other companies have started noting the percentage of recycled plastic used, for instance on shampoo bottles. Food companies are switching from plastic shrinkwrap to recyclable materials such as sugarcane polyolefin shrinkwrap. Aldi recently switched their own brand of rice packaging from non-recyclable oriented polypropylene to fully recyclable polyethylene laminate packaging.
Other sustainable packaging options include glassine (a recyclable transparent paper made from wood pulp), corrugated cardboard, compostable materials such as plant-based packaging from bamboo, hemp, and cotton, and reusable and refillable packaging for beauty and household items. Another popular trend is the inclusion of corn-starch packaging ‘peanuts’ as an alternative to Styrofoam, which can be dissolved in water. Fully dissolvable packaging is another trend that will grow – current examples include dissolvable laundry detergent packaging.
Sensory packaging provides a more memorable experience for the consumer. Examples include a whisky bottle that has a raised pattern on the glass and a corded-exposed cork and scented adhesives, for instance on air fresheners so the consumer can smell before they buy. Haptic packaging can range from rough and gritty to bouncy and rubbery to matte and silky. Another exciting trend that falls in both the sensory and sustainable packaging categories is edible packaging. Examples include edible drink pods, made from a waterproof seaweed film (those who don’t want to eat the pod can spit it out – it’s hypercompostable), edible bowls made from banana leaves, and wheat and barley six-pack rings for beer cans. Another aspect of sensory packaging is the trend towards diversity and inclusion, ensuring more products include braille or considering people with disabilities when designing easy-to-open packaging.
In a similar vein to sensory packaging, emotional packaging seeks to provoke a strong response in consumers, perhaps by channelling a nostalgia or retro vibe (popular with major brands), designing the package to look sentient by including facial expressions, or including an emotive brand origin story.
Packaging with integrated technology
Integrated technology combines physical packaging with digital technology. Basic bar/QR codes can allow packages to be tracked, and smart packaging using nanotechnology interacts with the contents, for instance, monitoring the freshness of foods and using indicators such as a colour-change to display shelf-life information. In the pharmaceutical industry, tiny loudspeakers can be used to detect and monitor the removal of pills with valuable adherence information being transmitted to healthcare providers.
Innovators want to change how customers interact with packaging. Examples of integrated technology include alcohol bottles that light up, illuminated bottle labels, sensor-activated screens, and embedded audio (‘talking packages’). Augmented reality is another popular trend, for instance, the car industry providing car brochures printed on paper containing a Bluetooth chip. These options are obviously at the high-cost end of the packaging spectrum, so future trends will likely involve low-cost technological options.
The trend for minimalistic packaging also ties in with eco-friendly packaging, as many consumers simply want minimal waste. It often only uses one or two different materials, and exudes elegance and simplicity. In a world full of attention-grabbing packaging, minimalistic designs such as plain white boxes with minimal text can be equally as eye-catching. Some supermarkets have applied reduced packaging to their ‘food to go’.
It’s an exciting time in the packaging industry, with a wide range of key trends at the fore. Packaging designers will continue to innovate and exciting new trends will emerge in the next five years