What the Future Holds for Packaging (Bill Madl)

When anyone considers what the future might hold for packaging, it’s always prudent to see where packaging was yesterday and where it is today, including all positives and areas of improvement needed. There are many obvious trends taking place today that a reliable and astute packaging supplier can learn from, and that can help predict the trajectory of the field. 

Here are five keys trends and areas where I see the future of packaging heading:

·       Ecommerce

·       Sustainability

·       Design concepts

·       Personalization

·       Manufacturing and delivery

Ecommerce

Let’s start with the boom of ecommerce and how that will impact the future of packaging. With the routine growth of ecommerce, led by the king of ecommerce, Amazon, and further driven by COVID-19 and how that limited the ability of consumers to visit brick and mortar stores, ecommerce is growing dramatically and setting the stage where consumers now look to shop online. 

Ecommerce companies are targeting consumer brands and analyzing consumer behaviors to drive their products. Giant ecommerce companies like Amazon will continue to focus on reducing waste, eliminating packaging where applicable, and delivering a sustainable, eco-friendly package to their consumers. Additionally, packaging will need to continue to deliver an unboxing experience for consumers through protection, safety, elimination of waste, and focusing on brand awareness.

Sustainability

Sustainability is the biggest trend taking place today within packaging. Not only will this trend continue as consumers show they are willing to pay more for an eco-friendly package, but companies like Amazon are setting standards for sustainability and charging penalties when not adhered to. 

Going forward, reflecting a commitment to the environment, packaging suppliers will minimize waste, maximize use of recycled materials, and focus on packaging that reduces the carbon footprint and energy needed to manufacture and ship their products. 

Packaging suppliers will deliver packaging made from natural starches, utilizing vegetable and algae-based materials that are edible or dissolvable. Consider laundry and dishwashing detergents and the trend in dissolvable packaging going on there. Consumers and consumer products companies will finally begin to pick materials that are truly sustainable based on material contents and recycled content.

Design Concepts

Design concepts are critical for packaging being cost effective, waste conscious, and practical. The future of packaging will have different shapes and sizes designed to utilize packaging efficiencies for space, storage, and serving portion sizes. 

With ecommerce growth, many consumers, especially singles, will demand smaller portions. Smaller serving sizes will also be designed to increase shelf life for foods. Easy-open features on packaging will take the forefront with design as more consumers continue to get their products online. 

Additionally, brand owners will seek to protect their product authentication through RFID labels and smart tags, all part of the new design concepts. Space-saving packaging will also be the rule, utilizing squares and corners on packaging. Printed electronics will be a part of the new design as they will be intended to show usage, brand identity, and “pop,” including tracking consumer usage.

Personalization

Personalization will play a role in future packaging. Just as recent Coke bottles have had names on them, you will be able to get your products personalized and perhaps even get your name on the products you choose to buy. This future personalization will drive consumers to purchase more of a brand as it focuses on the consumer and what they desire.

Manufacturing and Delivery

When it comes to the future packaging, manufacturing and delivery will be centered on speed and the emerging ways in which products are delivered. 

With driverless trucks and drones becoming more prominent in the future, products will be delivered to your doorstop quicker through smart warehouses, those that utilize empty warehouse space and are closer to the consumer. Safety, efficiency, reduced accidents, less fuel consumption, and improved transit times will all be drivers of adopting driverless trucks and drones. 

Also, manufacturers will utilize 3D printing to a greater degree, such that the packaging is eye-catching, and reflects brand awareness. Robotics in the warehouse and at distribution centers will also speed up delivery as consumers will want their products that are made to order to arrive just in time. 

The Future Awaits

In summary, what the future holds for packaging is definitely being driven by the waste and inefficiencies of the past and present, focusing on customer satisfaction, with sustainably a key to future packaging. The suppliers that revolutionize packaging and the customer experience, while protecting our environment, will be the leaders of the future!

William J. Madl has been working within the packaging industry since 1967, and currently serves as a consultant for custom packaging company Ashtonne Packaging.