Author: Anne Salomäki, Spoon
Trends can define the ways in which products are packed and delivered; but clever packaging companies step in early and have their say in what’s about to become the next big thing.
What’s fashionable for some can be someone else’s pet peeve. This makes predicting trends difficult – including for futurists like Elina Hiltunen.
“It’s almost impossible to say which one of the current consumer trends is the biggest, as one always tends to raise a counter-reaction, too," she explains. “On top of that, consumer groups are becoming increasingly fragmented, so companies need to strike a balance and find a compromise to attract wide audiences."
In her new book, Hiltunen has identified 18 rising trends in consumer behaviour. For example, some are very aware of ethical and ecological aspects in their purchases, whereas other always go for the easy, quick and practical choice. This doesn’t only guide the products consumers choose to buy, but also what they expect from their packaging.
For packaging providers, this poses an opportunity to appeal to various customer segments.
“That is the basis for today’s innovations," Hiltunen notes. “Looking at several trends and finding ways to weave them into one is how new ideas are born."
Hiltunen’s list of trends includes the likes of digital and smart, practicality and price, luxury, eco and ethical, and social media enthusiasts. To meet these needs, a packaging company could use eco-friendly raw materials that are easy and effective to recycle; focus on high-quality design and appearance yet practicality and cost-effectiveness; add digital elements in the form of QR codes and augmented reality; and boost the product with branding that makes it attractive for those fond of sharing their shopping on Instagram.
However, it’s important to consider the product inside the packaging. Hiltunen points out that if you’re wrapping eco-friendly detergent or vegan ice cream, it makes sense take associated values into account.
In the future, Hiltunen believes that digitalisation will take a much bigger role in packaging. This requires high-quality content that’s relevant to target audiences, be it QR codes with additional product information, gamification or charitable projects.
Hiltunen isn’t the only one who considers tech as the next big thing in packaging. As reported by The Guardian, some see internet-connected packages as a way to increase transparency and the efficiency of logistics – as long as the materials are fit for recycling.
The same applies the other way around: reducing waste or cutting carbon can’t be the one and only goal when innovating new packaging solutions.
“Saving the environment is not a trend, but a global consensus," Gilles van Nieuwenhuyzen from Stora Enso told Raconteur’s Future of Packaging 2017 report.
“However, for fully renewable packaging to replace fossil-based alternatives, it needs be as much about functionality and cost-efficiency as sustainability."
Hiltunen has noticed that consumers sometimes base their decisions on false or simplified information. She encourages packaging providers to spread unbiased and correct statements instead of going along with unsustainable fashion fads.
“For example, simply dropping plastic isn’t a long-term solution," she tells. “Instead, we need to look at the bigger picture, including logistics chains and the opportunities for recycling and reusing raw materials."
Some see the future of supermarkets completely package-free. Hiltunen thinks this is an unrealistic image.
“Who would buy their medicine unpacked? A package is also a seal of security," she says. “Digitalisation and new materials will change the way we pack things, but packaging itself will not lose its relevance."