4 packaging trends to get serious about

March 7, 2016, 8:45 am

Effective packaging in food and drink is about far more than size, shape and attractive visuals. Advances in technology and shifts in consumer behaviour mean it’s one of the most exciting and fast moving aspects of the industry right now. Here are the trends you need to take notice of now.

  1. The power of print

Increasingly sophisticated technology means more creativity and excitement in printing techniques. So, what were once very specialised (aka very expensive!) methods such as varnishing, raised effects, texturing, foil blocking and die cutting are now more widely accessible and a real option for many brands.

Yes, much of the most innovative activity will be focused at the mid – high and premium end of the market, but mainstream products wanting to make an impact for a special event or promotion will find much to explore now.

In a recent report on packaging trends, Mintel researchers say digital printing is capturing brand owners’ attention by helping them engage consumers on ‘a local, personal and even emotional level’.

Look out also for emergence into the mainstream of exciting electrical circuitry techniques. Labels that illuminate when they detect movement, anyone?

When designing your packaging think about how the graphics and imagery – the visual branding – can be enhanced by using new print techniques. It is a credible and effective way of differentiating yourself from your competitors and cutting through the noise being created in the supermarket aisles.

  1. Get personal

This is about both size and visual messaging.

Customers are increasingly demanding packaging in formats that reflect their occasion-based needs. That means providing a range of sizes: mini trial versions for new products, or on-the-go snacking opportunities; multi pack and mega sizes for commodity, family-oriented staples.

The main thing is, consider choice and put yourselves in the shoes of the customer so your product works for their lifestyle. Yes, this means creating more options, but it could prove beneficial if you experience sales uplift as a result. And it’s another tool to use in your bid to overcome the growing lack of brand loyalty in some sectors.

Personalised printing

According to Mintel, nearly one quarter of Chinese consumers surveyed indicated they would pay more for personalised soft drink packaging. Mintel’s global packaging director David Luttenberger said: ‘There’s a parallel path between brands striving to engage consumers on a more personal level and consumers’ expectations for packaging to deliver that experience.’ He adds that digital print can create ‘hyper’ personal experiences.

2015 saw the emergence of everything from personalised chocolates to bespoke beer labels. And Coca Cola’s high profile ‘your name on the bottle’ campaign proved that the technology is there, ready and waiting. This was a really simple marketing idea that drove emotional engagement. But you don’t have to have a high volume, fast turnover product to make variable printing effective. Watch personalised packaging grow in 2016.

  1. Planet-friendly

Environmentally conscious packaging is no longer about hitting your businesses CSR targets. For many consumers (increasing numbers, no doubt), eco friendly packaging influences the brands they choose. According to Mintel, 63% of US consumers agreed that reusable and repurposable packaging was a key purchasing driver: ‘When product price and perceived product quality are equal, consumers will be increasingly turning to these eco and alternative use attributes as the deciding factor, and brands cannot afford to ignore this as they develop their brand positioning and marketing strategies.’

Let’s be flexible

There is an element consumer perception that, because they use less packaging, flexibles are an environmentally-friendly choice.

However, there is a downside. Flexibles are not, by and large, recyclable as they tend to be made of mixed materials (layers of different plastics). And, as these are, typically, oil-based materials they are depleting a non-renewable resource.

It’s time for much more structural innovation in flexibles; we’re seeing it in other markets, including many European countries, Brazil, North America and the Far East. But also, consumers are going to become less tolerant of flexibles that are unable to prove some improvement in their green credentials.

The fact is, in the UK we’re not making the most of the potential of bags and pouches. Yes, we’re getting better at pack presentation and open-ability, but there’s much more to be done structurally and environmentally. New techniques are emerging; be wise and investigate them.

  1. Tell me more, but keep it clean

Cut the confusion and can the clutter. Shoppers are demanding more information, but it has to be presented in a clear way. There is little patience for packs overloaded with messages. Time-poor, fact-hungry consumers want to know the important information about ingredients, function and safety – but keep it clean and concise and then leave them to make their own purchasing decisions.


Mobile technology is enabling information to be conveyed in more subtle and smart ways. Engagement techniques such as QR and text codes will still be around, but now brand owners are investigating the potential of Bluetooth and near-field communication in their quest to engage with smart-phone savvy consumers.

Pouches and bags lend themselves particularly well to interactive techniques because the plastics typically used for flexible packaging allow more accurate, high-resolution printing (because the plastic is mechanically stable and doesn’t absorb ink). So look out for some exciting innovation in this space in 2016 and beyond.

For the latest packaging jobs please click here


Relevant articles and other useful links: 

Stergios Bititsios, packaging and consumer research leader at Cambridge Design Partnership explains why we need to get more thoughtful, earlier, when it comes to innovation in packaging and says the food and drink sector must learn lessons from other FMCG categories.

 FDIN gives you the low down on what it means to be a packaging technologist


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