We are not likely to forget nearly two years of modified living during this pandemic. Almost every aspect of our behavior, lifestyle, etc., was impacted to some degree. However, the pandemic didn’t just affect our personal lives. Brand owners and their packaging suppliers were also heavily impacted.
Currently, brand owners and their suppliers are figuring out ways to adjust to a post-pandemic world that makes sense from a business perspective. Here’s what we’ve learned from talking to them.
1. Consumer buying has shifted. Pre-pandemic, ecommerce purchases were in the 10 to 12% range. At the height of the pandemic, estimates were as high as 40 to 50% of purchases. Consumers have gotten used to the convenience of getting products delivered to their doorstep. That frees up time to focus on other things. While those numbers may back off a bit, the popular consensus is that ecommerce purchase will continue garner at least one-quarter of market share.
2. Branding for a 2-dimensional marketplace. Brand owners are rethinking how they market their products online. For example, graphics have to “pop” and messaging needs to be clear in an Amazon “white background” world. Companies are evaluating whether or not they need to have a different visual for online, versus what is displayed in traditional retail outlines.
3. Global standardization. We are hearing from brand owners — particularly global ones — that they are looking for ways to sell their products the same way across regions. That means the same package sizes, graphics, etc. The motivation is both global branding and cost reduction. For example, if you have the same equipment filling the same bottle in the United States as you do in Europe, that means you can move molds around easily, share technology, improve manufacturing efficiencies.
4. Consumer vs. commercial packaging. When the pandemic hit, commercial packaging demand was significantly impacted, while consumer packaging sales increased. The driver was stay-at-home consumption vs. away-from-home experiences. Anything that was packaging for institutional use (such as egg flat trays for restaurants vs. cartons for grocery stores), was significantly impacted.
Now, as we come out of the pandemic, what will happen? Will there be a severe pendulum swing back to the way we were in 2019, or will the pendulum never return to its original position? Both brand owners and suppliers are watching carefully to be able to respond to market needs.
5. Dramatic brand changes. Marketplace upheavals such as the one we are in usually favor bold brands. Many brand owners are working behind the scenes to dramatically alter their packaging, product offerings, and graphics. For those that were around during the Tylenol crisis in 1982, over-the-counter pharmaceutical brands were required by regulations to add tamper-evident devices. Those that garnered the most attention (and sales!) were the ones with the more creative/functional solutions. Look to innovative brand owners to take the same approach post-pandemic.
6. Sustainability, sustainability, sustainability. Even in the middle of the pandemic, 2025-2030 sustainability goals have remained a front burner issue. With every packaging redesign that brand owners ask us to execute, we are asked to factor in the company’s recycling initiatives.
7. The unknowns. No one really knows what the future of post-pandemic packaging will be. The “unknowns” are greater than what the marketplace has experienced in the past. The victors will be brand owners and suppliers that keep a sharp eye on the trends and have plans in place to address them.
Author: Craig Robinson is the global vice president of business development and innovation at PTI. He has decades of experience in integrated marketing, concept development and sales management in packaging and branding.
PTI is recognized worldwide as a leading source for preform and package design, package development, rapid prototyping, pre-production prototyping, and material evaluation engineering for the plastic packaging industry. For more information: www.pti-usa.com.