Connectivity and a continued shift away from plastics to recyclable materials are among Mintel’s four packaging trends for 2019, according to the company’s global packaging director David Luttenberger.
In a report, Luttenberger said connected packaging was enjoying “renewed interest” as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow. A recent report from Cisco predicted there would be 50 billion connected devices worldwide by next year, while Packaging Digest forecasted consumers would interact with more than 10 million fast-moving consumer goods via a device this year.
Luttenberger said brands had a “wealth of options” to connect with consumers via packaging, from QR codes and near-field communications, to radio frequency identification (RFID), Bluetooth and augmented reality.
Luttenberger said connected packaging had the ability to provide a “vital link” between the physical and digital shopping worlds, helping brands influence how they are perceived online, while also helping them deliver both engaging content and product-specific information capable of influencing purchase decisions.
Reinventing the box
The rapid rise of e-commerce has had more impact on packaging than any other external force over the past several decades, said Luttenberger.
He said e-commerce was creating “limitless experiences” for brand marketers to think about what would constitute shelf presence in the future, from “hero images” on websites to the unboxing experience.
Luttenberger said e-commerce was teaching brands that messaging and branding should be divided between the shipping container and what’s inside the box, with the latter featuring elements that provide consumers with “surprise and delight” when they open the package.
He predicted brands would also be able to achieve significant financial, social and brand equity gains by exploiting elements of package optimization that are rooted in sustainability.
Mintel said marine plastic pollution had become a crisis, leading to a growing need for “different attitudes” to the material. Packaging accounts for approximately 160 million tons of all global plastic production, more than 40% of which is used once and discarded.
Brands are increasingly looking at ways to reduce the use of plastic in their packaging. Nestlé, for example, has committed to making 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025. It introduced paper packaging for its Nesquik brand earlier this year, with the Smarties brand also expected to roll out plastic-free packaging sometime this year. It also introduced the Institute of Packaging Sciences in December, which evaluate and develop sustainable packaging materials in collaboration with industry partners.
Luttenberg said while consumers had grown increasingly hostile toward plastics, they are also reluctant to lose “the convenience and benefits” it brings. “Brands should act now, either to ensure a place in emerging plastic-free zones by switching to acceptable pack materials, or by engaging with the debate, clearly explaining the benefits of plastic packaging to their product and addressing plastic pollution concerns with appropriate end of life pack solutions,” said Luttenberg.
Closing the loop
While companies such as Nestlé have garnered headlines for their commitment to recyclable materials, Luttenberg said few brands had considered the associated problems, such as who would be supplying these materials.
He said “low availability” of high-quality recycled plastic, coupled with concerns over food safety, are hampering the use of recycled material. According to one report, less than 10% of the more than 300 million tons of plastic produced each year is recycled; instead much of it finds its way to landfills.
Luttenberg said inconvenience and confusion around recycling is a barrier for some consumers. “Going forward, brands have an opportunity to ride consumer awareness of recycling issues by being part of the solution and committing to using recycled material in new packaging,” he said.