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5 (and a half) packaging trends of 2016

5 (and a half) packaging trends of 2016
Identifying packaging trends is one of our specialties. Here are a handful from 2016 that shine.

As we count down the days left in 2016, and before we look ahead to next year’s trends, let’s take a look at what we predicted would drive many of your packaging decisions in the last 12 months—from ecommerce needs and the influence of Millennials to the digital revolution and personalization.

Of the dozens of packaging trends that we’ve published at over the last year, here are the ones that scored the highest with the global packaging community, based on page views.

We start with our No.5 trend and work our way up to No.1.

Why five and a half trends, you may ask? We covered trends in food and beverage packaging in two separate articles, each of which got a lot of attention as the No.1 and No.2 articles in this list. So I figured two articles about the same one topic should be worth 1.5 trends. (This is how some editors do math, by the way, in case you ever wondered.)

Photo credit: Illustration above by

Trend 5: Ecommerce grows through “unboxing” experiences and “shares”

In his article “5 ways packaging designers can capitalize on the ‘unboxing’ trend,” marketing consultant Adam Wormann says the experience of an individual unboxing their new purchase should be on the mind of every consumer product professional engaged with packaging in any way. Why? Because unique and/or premium packaging helps you stand apart from competitors and encourages social sharing of your brand, which means free advertising. Plus, giving consumers a fond memory of your product means they are more likely to buy from you again.

Wormann goes on to succinctly enumerate his advice on how packaging designers can capitalize on this trend:

1. Leverage Custom Printing: Your packaging should represent who you are, far beyond just your logo.

2. Use Unique Shapes and Sizes: Memorable packages elicit a positive emotion.

3. Select Memorable Packing Material: Think through creative options in materials for a personalized, memorable experience.

4. Go Green: Create a minimalist packaging experience in the interest of environmentalism.

5. Surprise and Delight: Nothing says more to a customer like going beyond what is expected.

NEXT: Digital technologies continue to revolutionize packaging

Trend 4: Digital technologies continue to revolutionize packaging

Like any transformation, the digital revolution in the packaging industry brings opportunities and challenges. Packaging Digest, in partnership with Videojet Technologies, assembled experts in packaging insights for a roundtable discussion to answer the question: “Where is the digital revolution headed next in packaging?

Among the topics covered were serialization, track-and-trace, customized/personalized printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), global connectivity and smartphones.

Quotable quotes from our experts:

“Packaging machines currently are taking advantage of different types of sensors that can acquire more information from the equipment. That’s much more economical to do now.” — Jorge Izquierdo, vp, market development, PMMI, The Assn. for Packaging and Processing Technologies

“The value of any individual piece of information is miniscule. It only has value when we look at a massive quantity and start picking up patterns.” — Dirk Rodgers, principal, Dirk Rodgers Consulting

“[Packaging] machines don’t need to worry about languages. Technically, when you put a digital code on something, it doesn’t care about whether it’s French or German or Russian or English. It knows what that code is and it interacts seamlessly across the globe.” — John Nobers, Videojet’s director, Systems Solution Group

“If direct package printing evolved quickly enough, it could eliminate digital label printing. So there is a bit of race going on right now.” — Scott Biondich, president, Packaging Innovation & Design

Regarding food traceability: “We don’t yet know what the future holds specifically for the food industry. But I think we’re going to see more impetus from consumers, who expect more.” — Eric Davis, Videojet’s national sales manager

Regarding recalls: “If companies have supply chain visibility, they know exactly where to find the products they are looking for.” — Jim Kerper, Videojet’s sales manager, North America, Systems Solution Group

NEXT: Millennials prompt packaging designers to blaze new paths

Trend 3: Millennials prompt packaging designers to blaze new paths

Millennials mean business—literally. Attract this major buying group and you’ll probably see a lift in sales.

So what does this generation—often defined by their craving for instant gratification—expect or demand? And how do you create packaging that appeals to them? Briana Long, a Millennial herself and trade show marketing manager at PMMI, The Assn. of Packaging and Processing Technologies, offers five factors in her article “The Millennial factor: How a generation of consumers is transforming today’s packaging lands.”

1. To be honest,what does this brand say about me? Millennials want to feel a personal connection with their preferred brands.

2. Don’t be basic: Customize. Millennials expect to have input into the brands they buy across nearly every industry and every part of the world, which is why they gravitate toward customized packaging.

3. Affordability for the whole squad. Economic factors play a major role in determining what products price-conscious Millennials are willing and able to buy. However, Millennials still seek high-quality, reliable products that speak to their goals for socio-economic status.

4. Branding is valued before anything else (BAE). Millennials have proved to be receptive to high-end private label branding as retailers experiment with new lines of affordable but high-quality products that are packaged like private or exclusive brands.

5. Branding in the #DigitalAge. Social media proficiency is essential when attempting to capture a Millennial audience. Connect directly with them on-pack via hashtags (#) and QR codes.

Bottom line, according to Long: “Millennials, a generation that demands more from the brands they purchase, are setting the precedent when it comes to the most innovative products and packaging. By understanding their influence—and applying the right packaging solutions—companies can better keep up with the pace of change.”

NEXT: Beauty care packaging gets personal

Trend 2: Beauty care packaging gets personal

Packaging Digest shares insights from veteran designer Scott Jost, who leads Berlin Packaging's Studio One Eleven  division, about the latest consumer trends and their impact on packaging design for personal care products and cosmetics in the popular article “Beauty care packaging trends: it’s all about ‘me’.”

Smart packaging, for example, lets users tailor a product to meet their individual needs. And once consumers experience the ability to customize, they can’t imagine going back to a world without personal choice.

Technology, such as 3D printing, is helping make this possible. As Jost explains, “This sort of flexibility has shaved weeks and months off of development timelines and helped us advance the client decision-making process via more and better information earlier in the development cycle.”

NEXT: Food and beverage packaging trends are fast-moving and persistent

Trend 1: Food and beverage packaging trends are fast-moving and persistent

The food-and-beverage market represents the largest segment, by far, for packaging consumption. Much activity, innovation and developments happen here. This volume helped vault two articles into the lead positions on our 2016 packaging trends list. We’ve combined them into a single item since they are so closely related. Together, they pinpoint nine packaging trends for foods and beverages—but, you know what? We’re seeing many of these same trends in other markets too.

In talking about the “5 persistent food and beverage packaging trends” he is seeing, contributing writer Seb Atkinson includes recent examples from companies like Wishbone, Stillhouse, Carlsberg and Coca-Cola.

1. More material conversions: “High-end food and drink companies, as well as alcohol brands, are continuing to choose plastic over glass for a variety of reasons,” Atkinson points out.

2. Unusual container choices: According to Atkinson, “many beverage brands will experiment with innovative materials for their bottles and packaging.”

3. Zero-waste initiatives: “Companies and consumers alike are becoming more aware of innovative recycling methods,” Atkinson says, “and the benefits of implementing these.”

4. Stand-up pouches: “Brands love these formats because they offer the ability to print vivid, clear designs and allow true creative freedom for packaging designers,” Atkinson says, also noting that “their environmental footprint is minimal.”

5. Vintage packaging design: “When it comes to design trends, we can expect to take a trip back in time over coming months—from the ornately old-fashioned…to retro designs currently storming the food industry,” Atkinson says, “as brands look to create a sense of nostalgia.”

And in our highest-page-view trend article of the year, contributing writer Nikki Clark identifies these “4 fast-moving trends in food and beverage packaging.”

1. Personalization: “Technological advancements has given rise to the surge of personalization,” says Clark. “Some companies have experimented with interactive ways of personalization, allowing consumers to feel they are putting their mark on a brand to the point where it has entered the realm of co-creation.”

2. Cleaner and clearer labeling: “From a consumer perspective, clean labeling and clear on-pack communication helps them trust in the brand,” says Clark.

3. Appealing to the senses:Although not a new development, manufacturers and brands are starting to see the relevance and benefits of different sensory elements being integrated into packaging,” Clark says. “Special effects on packaging can attract greater attention and create that ‘wow’ factor, but can also be used to provide relevant information to the consumer.”

4. Packaging mobilization: “Now that the vast majority of consumers are smartphone savvy,” Clark says, “brands are exploring Bluetooth LE and near-field communication (NFC) as new ways to present information and engage consumers.”

We anticipate many of these packaging trends will continue into 2017. But in the coming weeks, we’ll tell you what new trends are emerging, too. Stay tuned.

Happy New Year!


Learn what it takes to innovate in the packaging space at WestPack 2017 (Feb. 7-9; Anaheim, CA). Register today!

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