Five Consumer Trends Shaking up the Packaging Industry

By Sam Shepherd-Fidler

- Last updated on GMT

Smithers Pira has released its Brand Owner’s Trend Report
Smithers Pira has released its Brand Owner’s Trend Report

Related tags Packaging Marketing Sustainability Packaging industry

Consumers are continually changing the way they view, interact with and discard packaging. Whether you're a manufacturer or a product marketer, you know how important it is to reflect the changing needs of the consumer in your products.

From convenience to traceability, here are five of the most important consumer packaging trends​ you need to know about to maximize the potential of packaging your products in today's market.

1. Sustainability


Consumers are becoming increasingly more aware of global environmental issues and are changing their buying habits accordingly. These days, it's 'cool to care', and consumers are actively seeking out semiotic signs on packaging that manufacturers have a green conscience (but are wary of green washing). Understanding how commitment to sustainability can be communicated in an engaging way on the packaging is key to attracting, relating to, and keeping consumers. 

Sustainable Packaging: Myth or Reality, an expert white paper by PWC, explains how sustainable practice has become essential to the perception and identity of a brand. In line with their ambition to be the 'most sustainable and desirable sportswear brand', Puma worked with PWC to produce an environmental profit and loss account, highlighting a €145 million environmental impact across their supply chain. Recognition of this allows them to build a more sustainable and resilient model for the future, and to communicate their green achievements to consumers. 

It seems that sustainability is no longer an optional add-on - it's an essential part of future business planning for those in the packaging industry. The complete story of a product is becoming a key factor in purchasing decisions - where does it come from, how was it made, what are its recycling credentials? 

2. Healthy Living

The health and wellness sector is booming, reflecting a wider public desire to understand what is and isn't good for us. Consumers now expect packaging and branding​ to display the health credentials of the product both quickly and concisely allowing them to make informed choices about their food. Regulations often stipulate how this information must be displayed, and packaging must balance these needs.

The healthy living market is crowded, and it can be difficult to attract (and maintain) attention from the shelf. It's therefore important for packaging to focus on unique benefits, such as natural ingredients and formulations, offering transparency on the label. Innovative methods of displaying and preserving fresh food will also be key for short and long term success.
Healthy snacking alternatives may be a way of overcoming this issue. Increased consumer snacking encourages product innovations offering healthy snacks in smaller pack formats, such as Snack-a-jacks; light snacks in small packets with an advertised low fat content.

3. Convenience

Increasingly busy lifestyles mean that consumers are seeking ease of use and convenient transportation from their packaging. Smaller, lighter and more easily disposable packaging makes consumption-on-the-go easier. Innovations such as no-mess applicators and dispensers eliminate the need for additional packaging, further adding to a no-fuss and disposable approach.

This need for convenience is particularly visible in the supermarket chilled foods sector. Tesco has recently introduced reseal-able packs among a variety of their savoury snacks, successfully balancing convenience with perceived freshness. Another innovation by Tesco is their Tomato and Chicken Pasta Salad, which has shifted from plastic to paper board, leading to increased visibility of the product which aids in impulse buying decisions.

4. Authenticity and Trust

As a result of several global food scandals, such as the discovery of horsemeat in beef burgers in many UK supermarkets, there is now more demand for transparency between manufacturers and consumers.
Origins of products need to be traceable back to their source to re-establish trust throughout the supply chain. Advertised provenance on packaging increases perceptions of credibility and authenticity, and reassures consumers of high quality and truthful produce. The Brand Owner Trends Report by Smithers Pira goes one step further by linking local provenance to sustainability, stressing that brands should communicate the carbon footprint benefits of consumers buying a local brand. This is particularly effective in the yellow fats and butter market due to increased demand for natural ingredients in high fat foods. 

5. Cost-effective Shopping

There's no avoiding global economic uncertainty. Understandably, consumers don't want to pay any more than they have to for their packaged goods and cost is one of the first considerations made when making buying decisions.
There is a growing tendency for consumers to make purchases when they are running out of a specific product, as opposed to taking an in advance, 'pantry-loading' approach as has been the norm. Smaller and easier to carry types of packaging therefore hold the greatest potential for these money-conscious, last minute shoppers. 

Sam Shepherd-Fidler, is operations director of distribution and product testing, Smithers Pira.

Click here​ to download Smithers Pira The Brand Owner’s Trend Report: Consumer Packaging to 2018.

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