The pandemic’s impact on packaging and label trends

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

The pandemic’s impact on packaging and label trends

Related tags UPM Raflatac Packaging Label coronavirus Sustainability smart label Tamper-evident

By now, the coronavirus’ impact on consumer needs is evident, with both consumers and retailers prioritising a safe and transparent food system. But how has the rush to meet the overwhelming shift to ecommerce and food delivery affected packaging demands and how is the packaging industry stepping up? And does this mean that sustainability has been put on the back burner?

“We knew packaging needs would change for our food industry customers given the COVID-19 shopping impact, and we are encouraged to see that sustainability has not taken a backseat,” ​said Kyle Strenski, business director (Food, HPC and Beverage) for UPM Raflatac Americas.

“In fact, our 2021 order data shows that sustainable features for food labels are even more important now, as consumers and customers prioritise a more transparent and safe food system. Sustainability does not have to be sacrificed for safety or convenience.”

Shift to ecommerce


According to UPM Raflatac, with delivery increasing approximately 75% and spending on meal delivery services increasing 70% in March 2020 compared to 2019, food packaging has become a critical tool for producers to communicate health and safety practices.

Enter the tamper-proof label, which provides bakers that have transitioned to the online business model, for instance, visible proof of responsible handling from preparation to delivery.


US regulators are also calling on companies to maintain updated, digital data systems for tracing ingredients, supplies and inventory throughout the production process. This is where high-tech QR codes and tracking data on shipping and transport labels can step up to the mark.

And in an age of frequent and highly publicised food recalls, QR codes and data tracking on food labels help quickly trace supply chains, vendors, retail destinations and lot codes.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there’s an increased focused on sustainability. While a label may account for only 2% of a plastic package’s weight, it can be the deciding factor in whether or not the material is recyclable.

We chat to Strenski, who details for us the top food label and packaging trends for 2021, based on UPM Raflatac’s customer insights.

UPM Raflatac is leader in sustainable labelling, offering high-quality paper and film label stock for branding and promotion, informational labels, and labels with functionality. The North Carolina-headquartered company takes its commitment to the environment a step further, with all three of its production sites in the US being 100% powered by renewable electricity.

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