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4 hot trends inspiring food and beverage packaging

4 hot trends inspiring food and beverage packaging
The Internet of Things is evolving to connect and track packages at all stages of its life. Graphic courtesy of Evrythng, one of the event's presenters.

Many packaging departments grapple with how to innovate during a time when the pace of change keeps accelerating. With new technologies materializing all the time, how can you discern the best direction for the future? One way is to concentrate on emerging trends that hold the most promise for your business.

Here are four such trends UBM Canon svp of content and strategy Pam Moore gleaned from the Global Food and Beverage Packaging Summit (July 7-8; Chicago).

It was an absolute pleasure to meet the super-engaged packaging crowd at the Global Food and Beverage Packaging Summit and to luxuriate in learning during the sessions.

These attendees are creative types deeply invested in humor, innovation and big thinking. (One impassioned lunchtime conversation focused on a new super-convenient dry cleaning service from Tide—it's not just packaging they like; it's innovation.) They spend their days designing things that change human behavior. A new package can boost product sales by 50%. No kidding.

The sessions brought out some core trends. Intriguingly, they are trends we also see in other vertical spaces across our business:

1. The Internet of Everything: There were a few jokes about the Internet of Things (IoT) going a little too far. Do you really need your electronic toothbrush to remind you to brush? Nonetheless, as sensors, flexible and printable electronics, and other tools have gotten smaller and cheaper, they are being put to good use in food and beverage packaging. One speaker called the movement "the trackability of every product in the world."

Some examples: Sensors can let a high-quality vodka brand know if its bottle has been emptied and refilled at a retailer (hello watered-down martini). Trackers can assure you that your fish never was stored anywhere under 45 degrees from boat to store or even tell you where the fish was caught. A sensor printed into a compostable box can help a company see how long it takes for that box to break down and disappear.

2. Customized manufacturing: In packaging speak, "the proliferation of SKUs." Manufacturing isn't as custom as Etsy, but it's a far cry from Henry Ford and his only-black cars. Think of cereals now made in multiple flavors: chai-blueberry, walnut-raisin, strawberry-almond. Each one needs a package that makes it recognizable but aligned with the others.

3. 3D Printing: Design shops or internal design teams can tell exactly what a new bottle will feel and look like by printing a quick prototype before they go into full manufacturing mode.

4. Designing for manufacturing: It's no good just ideating. You need to imagine products that can be manufactured on a mass scale. For example, don't design a bottle that will have a hot liquid poured into it without allowing for the resulting expansion of the material. Bottles have to fit on a standard shelf in the store and be easily stacked. We hear about this all the time from contract manufacturers in the medical space—dream big, but make sure the thing can actually be made.

Pam Moore, svp, content and strategy, leads and inspires UBM Canon’s live event and media content teams to excel in areas as varied as identifying industry trends, building social media communities and crafting quality content. As part of a core leadership team within the company, Moore helps align content strategy with business strategy. She is also an experienced audience builder, and digital health and trend expert.

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