Sustainability, technology, and classic design headline packaging trends in 2020
As consumer habits, needs and demands evolve and develop, the packaging industry must innovate and stay up to date with new trends in packaging. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, as of 2019 the packaging industry creates $900 billion in annual revenues throughout the world. The report also states the industry is projected to grow at a rate of 3.1% each year through 2022.
With billions of dollars at stake, brands need to stay current with packaging trends to capture the eye of their target consumers. In many developed markets sustainability goals lead the way in how we develop and think about packaging. 2020 trends promise to keep sustainability goals in mind, while continuing to develop eye catching designs taking advantage of what technology has to offer.
Sustainability and Eco-friendly Packaging
Rallies and protests calling for environmental reforms were commonplace throughout the world in 2019. Protests and activist such as Greta Thunberg have sparked inspired debate about what we are doing to stop climate change and help our environment. A concerning environmental issue that was discussed and will continue to be a hot topic is the amount of trash and plastic in our oceans. In 2019, there were 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean, damaging wildlife and ecosystems across our world oceans.
Taking the cue from activists, government imposed plastic bans, consumer demands, and companies’ intrinsic, or extrinsic desire to become more sustainable, eco-friendly packaging is a trend that will continue in 2020. Choosing to use flexible packaging, easily recyclable materials such as mono-plastics and cardboards, and significantly reducing single use plastics are initiatives that will continue in the packaging industry.
Technology in Packaging
Customer experience and engagement has become a huge marketing opportunity for brands. By simply scanning a QR code on packaging with a smart phone, the customer can access the world of augmented reality. Companies will continue to use AR campaigns to provide customers additional and interactive content such as recipes, coupons and games.
With innovations such as flexible packaging, the way we track packages will continue to evolve. Using bar codes to track and trace packages is a tried and tested effective method. Additionally, Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology is a growing trend, especially in the food industry. RFID enables non-line-of-sight-reading regardless of weather conditions and location while providing accurate read-write ability.
Minimal Packaging and Design
Consumers want what the product is, maybe some basic information, and that’s it. Furthermore, consumers don’t want to be burdened with extra packaging that is downright unnecessary. Less is, and will be, truly more in 2020.
Extra and unnecessary packaging not only annoys consumers but is more costly and wasteful in terms of money and the environment. As previously mentioned, sustainability and eco-friendly packaging will continue to be a trend in 2020 and minimal packaging materials embodies that.
As far as branding is concerned, consumers respond well to less. A design that is minimalistic doesn’t have extra branding, information, or clutter that is seen as distracting from the product. Rather, the design is straight forward, employs a strong color, and features easy to read text.
Vintage and retro are cool again, and packaging designers are looking to take advantage. These designs are meant to evoke a happy feeling of a time that’s gone by. Designers will continue to use similar colors, fonts, and graphics in 2020 that were common in earlier times.
E-commerce in Packaging
Everyone loves Amazon and online shopping. In fact, in 2018 an estimated 1.8 billion people worldwide purchased goods online. Additionally, in 2018 online retail sales were 2.8 trillion dollars with projections to reach 4.8 trillion in 2021. To put it lightly, that’s a lot of packaging and materials being produced, shipped, recycled and thrown away each year.
Utilizing all sustainable innovations is important now and in the future as e-commerce and the packaging industry continues to grow. Advances in flexible packaging, recyclable packaging materials, and efforts to create more efficient packaging logistic methods are all essential to reducing waste.
For example, the world leader in e-commerce, Amazon, introduced Frustration-Free packaging back in 2008. Frustration-Free packaging ships products in its original packaging, eliminating the need for additional shipping boxes. As of 2017, the initiative has eliminated 215,000 tons of packaging material.
In 2020, the giant e-commerce market must continue to innovate its shipping and packaging methods to increase its sustainability and reduce its carbon footprint.
 McKinsey & Company, “Packaging solutions: Poised to take off? July 2019 Report”
 National Geographic, “Ocean Trash: 5.25 Trillion Pieces and Counting, but Big Questions Remain”
 Packaging Digest, “Track-and-Trace”
 Statista.com, “E-commerce worldwide - Statistics & Facts”
 Aboutamazon.com, “Frustration-free packaging”