The Packaging Trends You Can Expect To See In 2018

There are five major packaging trends you can expect to see as we move into the new year, according to Mintel, a major market research firm. You can expect to see more minimalistic designs, packages that keeps marine conservation in mind, reinvigorated packaging for e-commerce, and more!

According to David Luttenberger, Global Packaging Director at Mintel, “Our packaging trends for 2018 reflect the most current and forward-looking consumer attitudes, actions, and purchasing behaviors in both global and local markets. Such trends as those we see emerging in e-commerce packaging have stories that are just now being written. Others, such as the attack on plastics, are well into their first few chapters, but with no clear ending in sight. It is those backstories and future-forward implications that position Mintel’s 2018 Packaging Trends as essential to retailer, brand, and package converter strategies during the coming year and beyond.”  Below is a list of the major trends you can expect to see as we move into 2018.

Packaged Planet:  Consumers often feel packaging is unnecessary or simply creates more waste.  Brands are starting to educate their consumers that packaging can actually extend shelf life of food and provide efficient and safe access to essential products in developed and underserved regions of the world! There is now a focus on innovative packaging that extends the freshness of food, preserves ingredient fortification, and ensure safe delivery.

rEpackage: Consumers from around the world shop online for convenience.  As more shoppers embrace online sales you will see brands developing their packaging to enhance the experience of shopping from home.  This new trend will help to reflect the expectations their consumers have when it comes to how their goods arrive at their destinations.

Clean Label 2.0: No more lengthy descriptions! Today’s consumers are more informed than ever, but brands risk losing customers who they bog down with too much information.  The “essentialist” design principle bridges the divide between not enough and just enough of what’s essential for consumers to make an enlightened and confident purchasing decision without second guessing the company’s authenticity.

Sea Change: Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers associated with plastic packaging ending up in our oceans.  Concerns over safe packaging disposal will increase shopper’s perceptions of different packaging types and impact their purchasing decisions.  Consumers want to see brands working to create a circular economy to keep packaging materials in use. Only by communicating that a brand is working toward a reusable solution will consumers feel more confident in their purchases.

rEnavigate: Younger consumers are buying less processed and frozen foods.  They are instead opting for items purchased in the fresh or chilled aisles.  Brands are looking to reinvigorate their packaging to draw these consumers back into the center-of-store aisles.  The designs they’re using are now more contemporary, transparent, and recyclable.  They’re also opting for more uniquely shaped packages to draw the younger shoppers to check them out.

Following these five trends in 2018 will ensure your brand will be able to keep up with the growing needs of your consumers.

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Study Spotlight: “Where you say it matters: Why packages are a more believable source of product claims than advertisements”

A study by researchers at Florida State University and the University of Miami claim to have found a way to potentially make marketing claims seem more reliable. According to their paper published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, customers are more likely to perceive marketing claims as truthful when they’re made on the product’s packaging (as compared to in advertisements). Believability, they claim, increases with proximity to the product itself–since the packaging is by default closer to the product than an advertisement about it, it can ultimately be more effective in pushing sales.

The Florida researchers noted some key differences between packaging and advertisements that could potentially explain why a consumer would view a statement on a package as being more reliable. Most notably, in the United States food industry, health claims made on packaging are regulated with more vigor as compared to claims made in ads. Previous research speculates that “if consumers perceive this difference, then they may perceive food health claims made on packages as more credible than those featured in ads.” Partly because of this, the Florida study goes on to suggest that “consumers may believe that packages are meant to communicate objective information, such as usage instructions, whereas ads are meant to persuade consumers to select a specific brand.”

kickers energy spray

To test their theory, the researchers completed a series of three related studies. In Study 1, the researchers exclusively evaluated claim-to-product proximity, positing that the closer a marketing claim was to the physical product, the more likely the consumer would be to buy it. Presenting a claim made on an ad right next to the packaging itself should make the ad’s credibility identical to that of the packaging claim. At the beginning of the study, participants were given $1, and told it was in appreciation of their time. After completing an hour-long series of unrelated tasks, their were unknowingly subjected to the real study: each subject was told on their way out by a research assistant that a product (“Kickers Energy Spray”) from a previous experiment was on sale for $1. They were then asked if they’d like to purchase the spray while being shown one of six different product displays:

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In order from top to bottom (and left to right):

    • An advertisement promoting the product
    • A different advertisement, also promoting the product
    • The product’s packaging
    • One of the advertisements accompanied by the product (without the package)
    • The other advertisement accompanied by the product (without the package)
    • The packaging accompanied by the product (without the package)

In line with the researchers’ predictions, participants who saw only the package were significantly more likely to purchase the product than those who saw only the ad (51% vs 10%). If the display included the actual product (regardless of whether it was accompanied by the ad or the package), the likelihood of purchase was equal, since the product itself was right next to the claim. The difference between the effectiveness of an advertisement with and without the product nearby was substantial–subjects were much more likely to purchase the product in the ad setting if the product was actually present. Overall, consumers were more inclined to buy the product when they saw the package, rather than the ad, and most inclined when the product itself was present.

What we can take out of this study is that, while companies can’t just go around putting any message they’d like on a product (the FDA would likely take issue with that), it may be time to reconsider striking some of the “wordy bits” off of packaging for the sake of a cleaner design. While good design is crucial for sales in pretty much any given scenario, striking a balance between artwork and on-package marketing may help to drive sales. It’s important to note that a campaign’s success is about more than just information–assume the consumer is able to glean at least the necessary information about a product from just a glance. After filling them in on anything else that may not be immediately obvious, the customer is left with a choice: to buy, or not to buy. This is where marketing comes in, because the goal from here on out is to ensure purchase. While advertising skepticism has been gradually increasing over time, an honest, unbiased, and informative call to action can push an unsure consumer to purchase. According to various studies, consumers tend to view unambiguous information, third party statements, and product comparisons favorably. Conversely, claims that seem in any way biased or misleading will drive sales in the opposite direction, so it’s important to be careful with wording.

The researchers went on to do two other studies further exploring claim-to-product proximity. Read the full paper, Where you say it matters: Why packages are a more believable source of product claims than advertisements, in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

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What is Nano-Enabled Packaging?

What-enabled packaging? While it may sound complicated to someone who’s unfamiliar with the subject, nano-enabled packaging is actually far more common than you may think. As of 2013, the global nano-enabled packaging market was worth 6.5 billion dollars, and that rate is expected to more than double by 2020. What is nano-enabled packaging though? Nanotechnology “involves the uses of nanomaterials, which have external dimensions of less than 100 nanometres.” Basically, it’s work that is done on a very, very small scale. According to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies’ ‘Nanotechnology 101,’ “At the nanoscale, scientists can start affecting the properties of materials directly, making them harder or lighter or more durable. In some cases, simply making things smaller changes their properties-a chemical might take on a new color, or start to conduct electricity when re-fashioned at the nanoscale.”

superhydrophobic-laser-4

You may have recently heard of this bit of nanotechnology floating around (I know I’ve certainly seen a few of my friends posting videos of it on social media). Scientists have recently created an incredibly hydrophobic metal–so hydrophobic, in fact, that droplets of water bounce right off its surface upon contact. To do this, tiny etchings were made into the surface of the metal at the nano scale, which helps to create air pockets and repel water and other substances. This technology could have many applications, including self-cleaning smart phone screens, water (and consequently ice repellant) cars and planes, and a way to prevent metal objects from rusting.

In the food packaging world, nanotechnology is generally used to prolong the lifespan of the product. With a growing customer base worldwide, “…food packaging requires longer shelf life, along with monitoring food safety and quality based upon international standards. To address these needs, nanotechnology is enabling new food and beverage packaging technologies.” Nanotechnology in packaging could take many forms, such as moisture absorbers, gas permeability, and antibacterial properties.

Some of the biggest names in nano-enabled packaging right now include Amcor, Bayer, Danaflex-Nano, Honeywell, and Tetra Pak International (the later of which you may recognize from their 100% renewable carton).