13 Jun 2019
Long overlooked as unglamorous, packaging is coming into its own once again thanks to the rise of online shopping and the challenges that brands are facing in differentiating themselves. New technologies – especially digital printing – are greatly expanding the potential of packaging to create moments of genuine and relevant consumer engagement. The pace of change is so rapid that we couldn’t wait until the start of a new year to make our predictions.
Sustainability is perhaps the most important packaging trend of 2018, and we’re confident that it will only become more significant in 2019. As a country, we dispose of huge quantities of packaging every day, but consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to address this issue.
From ocean plastic to single-use coffee cups, brands are starting to experience a backlash from consumers who perceive them as not caring about the environment, or not being willing to change. However, more forward-thinking brands can turn this concern to their advantage, by getting creative with their packaging.
This ranges from using new materials (such as biodegradable plastics) to encouraging changes in consumer behaviour – for example, re-using glass jars or rejecting carrier bags. Both design and engineering come into play here: well-designed, attractive and practical packaging is more likely to be kept and re-used by consumers, while less harmful materials are an all-round win.
For decades, plastic was only ever thought of as fantastic. It was the cheap, flexible packaging material that could be moulded into any shape, and was food safe. More recently, its reputation has taken a severe knock, largely due to its lasting environmental impacts.
The trend towards less plastic is very much aligned with sustainability – and again, presents both challenges and opportunities. For brands that can authentically demonstrate their green credentials, there is huge scope to engage with consumers and grow their businesses.
The first two packaging trends we’ve identified are largely to do with materials. But of course, that’s only half the story. Every single item of packaging represents not just one, but potentially multiple consumer touchpoints from (for example) store to fridge to dining table. Packaging is the one form of advertising that consumers willingly engage with – thanks to packaging, the product becomes its own advertisement (and with no added production costs).
Packaging represents valuable real estate that brands can use to tell their stories, convey their values, or simply talk to consumers. Best of all – it’s owned media, they can use it in any way they wish.
Packaging as marketing is another packaging trend that sees design and materials converge. The importance of the ‘unboxing’ moment is key, and consumers place a high value on ‘premium’ packaging.
The humble brown cardboard box is suddenly everywhere, thanks to the inexorable rise of internet shopping. Courier companies are not the only ones enjoying a business boom: all those oh-so-easy to click and buy items need to be packaged for delivery.
That means a huge growth in the market for sturdy yet lightweight (in transport, grams equal Rands) packaging. Most online shopping packaging to date has been very functional in design, but there is enormous potential here for innovation and creativity.
Essentially then we are not looking at separate packaging trends, but several interlinked trends: people are using more packaging (especially when shopping on the internet) but we are more conscious of what it’s made from, what happens to it after we’ve used it, and what it looks and feels like.
Align these shifts in consumer opinion with the potential that digital printing offers for mass customisation, embellishment and delivering creativity, and you have a perfect storm of factors that add up to unmissable opportunities to not merely think out of the box, but completely reimagine what packaging means.