Five global packaging trends that could change your life

| December 20, 2011 | Comments (3)

In this fiercely competitive environment where every element of product packaging counts it’s important to understand any external influences that might keep your consumer from buying your products.Packaging trends evolve with consumer’s wants and needs and sometimes they can become a primary factor in whether or not your packaging will succeed. It’s hard to assess each trends individual importance but it’s critical to manage them for your overall packaging success.

Here are 5 packaging trends (in no particular order) that you cannot overlook for 2012.

Eyeballs Everywhere

Everyone will be watching what you do with your product packaging. Increasing scrutiny will come from US regulatory agencies such as the FDA, FTC, international agencies and watchdog groups such as the Copenhagen accord and of course consumers. They want to tell you to what you can or cannot say on your packaging, what materials it should be made of, how much material you can use and how you should dispose of it.

The problem lies in the fact that many of these groups simply don’t have an understanding of the role packaging has to play in modern society. They just see a package and assume its bad for consumers and the environment.

Everyone has an opinion whether it’s good packaging or not, on what the package should represent, say or be made from. Just look at the recent plain packaging legislation in Australia and what a controversy it has caused worldwide. Packaging is under attack on a global scale from all it’s detractors and what ever your package is scrutiny can come from unexpected places.

Look for more mandated packaging regulations from everyone and universal packaging standards set throughout the globe. Expect fines and stern warning letters if your packaging doesn’t comply.

Packaging phrases to watch for:

  • Packaging Bans and Mandate
  • External Regulatory Agencies
  • WrapRage
  • Misleading Consumers

 Private Label Prevails

CPG’s (consumer products) are under attack as consumer battle economic woes. It’s now not as much about the brand as it is about the value of what’s inside. If you have noticed many of the 1st tier brands are being moved to less attractive shelf space due to the advent of private label brands for most retailers.

Now when you shop the 1st thing you see at eye level is a private store brand. Almost every retailer now has its own brand and it used to be on a very limited scale. Now they are branching out as consumer demand more variety at an attractive price, even venturing into private label categories such as liquor. Not just copying existing brands as private label did in the past but creating whole new categories of products.

It is an interesting conundrum as retailers struggle for shelf space just what should a private label look like? Is it basic or does it mimic branded products? Every retailer has a different opinion, some are building entire stores around their private brands like Wal-Mart and Tesco.

So regardless what your private label packaging looks like, consumers are on the hunt for value brands and it will be at the expense of the premium and CPG brands. So think creatively about private label just don’t consider it as a second tier brand.

Packaging phrases to watch for:

  • Private Label
  • Generic
  • Economical
  • Value Packaging
  • Branding
  • Marketing
  • Rebranding

Information Overload

Ever wonder about all those icons, symbols and slogans on your packaging?  What they really mean? As companies struggle to craft winning messages they are creating their own symbols, slogans and icons many of which are meaningless. So no wonder the consumer is confused about the validity of these messages.

Add to that the claims about the benefits of the product inside. So many of these are being found to be misleading or simply untrue. Cereal packaging is one of the examples most commonly shown to have false health claims on the product packaging, but any product is not immune.

Part of the problem is who’s watching the marketers concocting these statements and what do they mean? Many of them do have legitimacy and supporting organizations. But there is no one regulating umbrella organization so companies are free to make their own branding and marketing statements and are competing with one another.

Ensure every element on your product packaging is meaningful to your consumer. Don’t overload your primary marketing space with meaningless phrases and symbols unless the message is integral to your mission and your brand. Just because its a cool and clever looking icon or symbol doesn’t mean it will influence the consumer one way or the other to buy. One caveat some of symbols must by law be on your packaging. Just be careful how and where you place them to maximize their impact and not overload the consumer brain.

There’s only so much space to craft your message and it better be the right one for your core audience.

Packaging phrases to watch for:

  • Certification Symbols
  • Frustration-Free Certification
  • Self-certification
  • Greenwashing
  • Branding
  • Marketing
  • Advertising

Green Goes Mainstream

Packaging accounts for 30-35% of the waste stream and consumers are concerned what to do about it. They are demanding less packaging and that serves a secondary purpose or can be recycled or reused.

Many even want to just leave it at the store and retailers such as Tesco are accommodating them with bins at the front of the store. The growth of eco friendly or green packaging is outstripping conventional materials. A recent study says that growth for sustainable packaging will double. It seems that every company is seeking a “greener” packaging alternative and new products and new ideas are surfacing everyday.

Unfortunately some of the concepts fall flat like the introduction of the SunChips compostable bag that consumer hated even though it met all of the prescribed “sustainable” packaging goals.

Consider the consumer in mind when crafting your “eco” message, whether its: reduce, refill, repurpose, reuse/recycle or even renewable materials. What are their expectations; marry the message to the brand.

Whatever option you choose ensure your packaging aligns with your core eco message. Because of increased “greenwashing” scrutiny be prepared to validate your green packaging claim.

Packaging phrases to watch for:

  • Recyclable
  • Compostable
  • Sustainable
  • Biodegradable
  • Bioplastics
  • Bioresins
  • Greenwashing
  • Repurposed
  • Precycling
  • Eco-friendly
  • Extended Producer Responsibility

Your Packaging Does What and Where?

Gone are the days of packages sitting prettily on the shelf. There is too much competition so companies are looking for unique ways to engage the consumer. Much of this revolves around interactive packaging and social media where consumers are engaged through secondary actions. Smart or intelligent packages that help you make an informed decision or at the very least point you in the right direction. The mobile consumer is the target of most of these packaging innovations.

Consumers are busy and you have to reach them where and when you can. We’ve already seen the growth of higher end products in convenience stores to catch consumers on the run. So where else can you capture to dollar of that elusive consumer and what packaging will appeal to them? Despite all you have read about excess packaging of products consumers still want convenience and are willing to pay for it. It has to fit their busy lifestyles too.

This field is in its infancy but statistics bear out that this type of package marketing is the wave of the future and is only limited by marketer’s imagination.

Packaging phrases to watch for:

  • Augmented Reality
  • 2D Barcodes
  • Social Media
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Smart Packaging
  • Intelligent Packaging
  • Nanotechnology
  • YouTube
  • Virtual Stores
  • Smartphones

We now have an educated customer that’s reading labels and taking notes. Not only are they reading the package but they are comparing like products, making informed shopping decisions. Branded merchandise is loosing ground to private label products. But in any case before you rush your package to market be sure and check the latest labeling guidelines and the pulse of the consumer. What you say on the front of your packaging could be misconstrued and case significant packaging problems.

Go out of your way in 2012 to consider consumer touch points as you design your product packaging. Where will they be and how can you reach them? How can you convey your core message without alienating or confusing them? Consider the entire lifecycle of your packaging, consumers are already wary and you need to educate them as to the value your product packaging provides. Package carefully, eliminating excess without destroying or damaging the product inside.

Remember this for the most part you can’t have a product without a package. Most importantly, packaging is our friend. And I’m thankful and you should be too, every day for packaging in our lives!

*JoAnn Hines is a packaging consultant with more than 35 years global packaging experience and expertise. She has a comprehensive command of the power of branding, design and merchandising on packaging and how it can influence the consumer to buy or not. As an industry leader, she is committed to promoting packaging as a merchandising tool.

She has traveled the world speaking on packaging trends and technologies and was invited to speak at the White House on US packaging innovations and how that could translate into business opportunities with China.

Her day is spent researching packaging trends and technologies for her clients and in doing so keep them abreast of trends and innovations that impact their business. Because she is independent she can offer an unbiased opinion on the viability of new or breakthrough packaging concepts. 

Her packaging trend columns are syndicated around the globe. In addition to advising numerous analysts about packaging, and creating the global platform she is also member of the Faith Popcorn Brain Reserve. To contact her

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Category: Guest Writer, WPN News

Comments (3)

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  2. Andy Malcolm says:


    Nice article. Good summary.

    To your first item, you’ve made a career of enlightening people on the true purpose of packaging. In your capacity as someone who has the ability to reach out and educate, how do you think we can get consumers and those regulatory agencies of which you spoke to see the ‘big picture’? e.g., less is not always better; recyclable is not always greener. Just a thought…

    Happy New Year,


    • JoAnn Hines says:

      Hi Andy:
      You raise a good point. Each agency has it’s own ax to grind and unfortunately they don’t work together.
      Companies should start by educating consumers. They are the ones that can apply the pressure to make changes in the perspectives and regulations on packaging.
      Thanks for sharing your opinion.
      Happy Packaging!
      JoAnn Hines
      Packaging Diva

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