There are five major trends that will continue to deeply impact packaging and its associated industries in 2015: the growing importance of sustainability; the demand for supply chain transparency; the rise of new barrier/coating packaging technologies; continued emphasis on lightweight packaging; and the importance of delivering frustration-free packaging.
The growing importance of sustainability
One of the most significant consumer demands in addition to quality is sustainability. According to a recent survey conducted by Asia Pulp & Paper, more than half of Americans (56%) indicate they would like to have more sustainable packaging when they purchase products. Additionally, 42% of Americans are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging options, and nearly 60% indicated that they look for ways to wrap gifts by reusing materials. Sustainable packaging therefore is a critically important trend that has, and will, continue to grow in 2015.
Sustainable packaging carries significant environmental and business implications for brands and companies, whereby customer preference relative to sustainable packaging is now influencing purchasing decisions. Therefore, brands must be cognizant and proactive about implementing measures that further a product’s packaging sustainability; if not, they risk the possibility of losing customers to competitor brands that are prioritizing sustainability in their packaging.
The demand for supply chain transparency
Supply chain transparency is a critical area that brands must prioritize in 2015 if they hope to avoid potentially costly environmental and legal infractions that could damage corporate reputation and overall relationships with customers and various stakeholders. One of the key ways that brands can help further sustainable packaging is by improving packaging traceability throughout the supply chain. Brands can communicate how they are adapting their sourcing and convey to consumers how they are implementing supply chain traceability, ranging from procurement and transport to end-of-life cycle. Brands can also enhance labeling so that customers have a clearer understanding of how to best recycle packaging materials. Additionally, companies can create reusable packaging to extend secondary use—resulting in positive brand associations from more environmentally friendly purchasing decisions.
The rise of new barrier/coating technologies
Paper and board is expected to see tremendous growth in the next several years. According to research agency Smithers Pira, based on current trends, the sector will experience growth of up to 6% annually through 2017. This will result in a global market of more than 30 million tons with an approximate value of $70 billion. While this is great news for the growth of the packaging industry, it also presents challenges to brands on how to ensure that the coating technologies used in this type of packaging work safely and effectively, particularly in a food-contact role.
Brands will continue to focus on developing new barrier technologies that are renewably sourced, readily recyclable, biodegradable, or, ideally, all three. Bioplastics and water-based coatings are some of the barrier technologies that brands are exploring and implementing in order to achieve the balance of the aforementioned priorities relative to recyclability and renewability. New barrier technologies will continue to be a critical business imperative for brand packaging in 2015.
Continued emphasis on lightweight packaging
Many industries, including food and beverage, are increasingly emphasizing reduced packaging weight both for environmental sustainability and for reduced costs throughout the supply chain. While lightweight packaging is important for promoting environmental sustainability, brands must ensure that employing this type of packaging sufficiently balances environmental impact with the customer experience. An evolution of lightweight packaging is a paradigm known as the “packaging efficiency model.” This model provides a more holistic approach that covers the entire lifecycle of a package.
Importantly, the model considers such factors as the resources used in its creation; ability to protect the product; transport and display efficiency; ways to provide a positive customer experience; and impact on end-of-life. Moving forward in 2015, it will be vital for brands to balance how best to address sustainability demands while also ensuring that durability, lightness, and overall customer experience.
Importance of delivering frustration-free packaging
Everybody has encountered packaging that is frustrating to open. Whether it’s a young child having difficulty opening a toy package, or an elderly individual struggling to open a medication, a clear need exists to reduce the hassle of opening different types of packages. Companies are discovering that a way to ensure and build customer loyalty is to prevent situations that cause a delay in opening packages. The simple solution is to utilize packaging that can easily be opened—with no tools required. In 2015, brands must continue to be cognizant of offering packaging solutions that reduce the time and frustration associated with packages that are unnecessarily difficult to open. If not, this may result in diminished customer satisfaction and adversely impact overall business performance.
While the above trends are not intended to provide an exhaustive list of the many developments that will occur within the packaging industry in 2015, hopefully the trends identified can serve as an effective framework of what brands should continue to be mindful of and prioritize in the year ahead. Understanding these trends and properly integrating elements such as packaging sustainability and prioritizing/balancing safe coating technologies with convenience will increase brand loyalty, enhance reputation, and improve overarching business results.