Each new year marks a period of renewal. It is everyone's chance to start over. But some developments take years to evolve, and the scope of their importance often is not immediately apparent. These are called trends. So, in my prognosis for 2009, here are six megatrends likely to have a growing impact on packaging:
1. Sustainability. With a weakening economy, many might think that sustainability would be cast aside as companies pare costs. Consumers and packagers now understand that packaging resources aren't limitless. However, as Lynn Dornblaser, an expert in trend analysis at Mintel Intl., says the sustainability practices most likely to survive the downturn are those that will have a financial benefit for the end users, such as downgauging and reshaping packages.
2. Automation. Recent PD surveys on automation indicate packagers will continue investing in automating their packaging lines. The reasons are simple: reduced labor costs; increasing flexibility; and boosting efficiency—all key to staying in business.
3. Private Labeling. A Citigroup survey showed that private-labeling sales have increased 8.3 percent in 2008. Dornblaser reports a real change in consumer sentiments. They want quality at value prices. Increasingly, private-label products give buyers more choices for premium products. Many retailers no longer offer generic products that imitate national brands. Retailers like Target, Safeway and Wegmans have multiple tiers of their own products. Increasingly, they utilize captive brands sold only at a single retail chain, such as CVS or Target.
4. Convenience. Busy consumers will continue to demand packaging that offers convenience. Dornblaser says packaging that makes a product easy to prepare will grow dramatically. However, she says that it's likely that sales of multipacks and portion-packs will slow as consumers look to stretch their dollars.
5. Increased shelf life. Packaging technology that enhances shelf life will be in demand. Consumers want fresh foods, beverages, medicines and household products no matter how long these have been in the closet. Other features that reduce spoilage after opening, like zippers and reclosures, are likely to be hot.
6. Globalization. While offshore production may decrease due to slowing international trade, multinational companies like Coca-Cola, Nestlé and Procter & Gamble will seek international continuity in branding and make their packaging similar, no matter where it's sold.