Packaging futures

Although this is a topic we’re talking about all the time, we’ve just been asked to commit to our views on the future of packaging design for a research article. Hmmm.

It would be fabulous to take some serious time out to dwell on this, but as we’re also trying to get 80,000 SIMs picked, packed and out the door this week, we’ve had to pull our ideas together rather quickly!  

But we thought we’d still share… we can see the future of packaging design moving in 3 key directions:

– increasingly consumers will expect packaging to be minimised and sustainably produced until this becomes a given.  This isn’t driven so much by pure environmental concern but as a result of the difficult economic climate and consumers resenting paying any more than they need to for the actual product they want.

This could actually result in more expensive durable packaging solutions for ‘first purchase’ followed by simple, economical ‘repeat purchase’ solutions – Kenco coffee refills being a current example that goes partway to this – how about cereals being sold in a beautifully designed air-tight tin with refills available in a very basic board or pulp carton or biodegradable corn starch bag?

– we see consumers expecting packaging to better reflect purchasing routes – e.g. bricks and mortar shopping should drive a product to be packaged differently (ease of carrying, clear branding, information to support buying decision) than the same product purchased online where much of the branding and information needed to support the same buying decision is held on the website, so the packaging could be reduced to the most effective transit pack for shipment – there won’t be one pack per product but multiple permutations.  Along these lines, we like Amazon’s “Frustration Free Packaging

– almost in contradiction to our first point, multiple packaging options for a single product will also develop to support the increased desire/availability of personalised options… Can we get to the stage where the consumer specifies their desired pack size/quantity/volume to suit their storage/speed of use rather than chooses from set options?  Can the consumer also select what supporting information they receive printed on the packaging?  Do they want a hard copy instruction booklet included or just a link to view online?  Could the consumer personalise the packaging for a gift purchase, in the way that greetings cards can be personalised now – e.g.

For us, we summarise this in our belief that a significant part of the future lies in fulfilment innovation and kitting/finishingsophistication rather than just packaging innovation; bulk storage of products prior to any packaging being applied, selection of the appropriate packaging option being the first step in a highly responsive fulfilment process.

We can see forward-looking online supermarkets like Ocado potentially leading the way here, with key volume product lines being delivered in generic (recyclable) packaging across a range of sizes, potentially the only difference between cornflakes and pasta, or cola and orange juice, being a bespoke printed label?