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Technology Leads the Way in Food and Beverage Packaging for 2020

Consumer demands are driving changes in food and beverage packaging design. “Recent technological advances, combined with consumer demand for sustainability, have only added to the complexity of developing packaging that meets consumer needs and wants,” states PKG, which specializes in packaging design services.

In the food and beverage industry, packaging is becoming as important as the food itself—not just for protecting the product and its shelf life, but also for displaying designs that catch the customer’s eye and communicate the mission and brand of the company, including its environmental awareness.


“Consumers are already impacting changes in packaging, such as the push for more sustainable materials and packages that meet a particular need, like single-serve packages for on-the-go consumption, and multi-compartment packaging for convenient ready meals,” states Simon King, director of global sales, service and marketing for Eagle Product Inspection in the UK.  “You can expect more of that in 2020 and beyond.”


The following are seven key food and beverage packaging trends that will have big impacts in 2020.


1. Edible packaging. 


“Imagine biting into an empty carton or swallowing a water bottle instead of recycling it. It sounds far-fetched, but the era of having your food and eating the wrapper too is becoming reality,” states Josh White, creative director for brand and design agency OffWhite Company. Edible wrapper solutions made from rice paper, seaweed, wax-coated sugar, tomatoes, and potatoes are already on the market. Other companies are producing edible straws and cutlery. Soy-based inks, biodegradable plastics, and compostable materials are also being developed for market incorporation.


2. Sustainable packaging. 


Consumers are increasingly making food choices based on a company’s commitment to the environment. In fact, Bizongo’s Packaging and Consumer Behavior in 2020 showed that 84% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. In response, food and beverage manufacturers are shifting away from single-use plastics and striving for 100% biodegradable, recyclable, or reusable packaging. “Natural materials may soon replace common plastics and help brands strengthen their environmentally-friendly credentials,” points out Packaging Gateway, a media site for packaging professionals.


3. Transparency. 


The trend to be clear and forthcoming about food ingredients will continue in 2020, notes White, both in on-package wording and packaging structure. “The use of see-through or translucent materials is growing,” he says. “The more that companies address consumer demand for transparency about what they do and how they make their products, the more we’ll see clear packaging that removes the guesswork out of what’s inside.” This is also supported by the aforementioned Bizongo survey, which revealed that 38% of consumers are willing to purchase a newly launched product if it is marked with clear product information.”


4. Minimalism. 


Consumers are busy shoppers and don’t have time to read detailed fine print about the food they want to buy. To eliminate this frustration, companies are now using simple, bold colors and easy-to-read print and fonts. This focus on simplistic-yet-informative labeling and packaging is a hot trend in packaging design. “It helps highlight the product’s value and does not overpower customers with graphics,” states Bizongo. “Keeping the design simple not only makes the packaging look clean but also reduces the cost.”


5. Smart packaging.


Technology can now be embedded directly into packaging to provide the consumer with more convenience, security, and information—for example, NFC chips, QR codes, or smart labels can be scanned and read with a smartphone. Smart packaging can also track key features such as pH, temperature, and fermentation to ensure products remain high quality for consumers. Another innovation in packaging security features is traceability—tracking product flow from manufacturer to consumer and observing consumer behavior can also help with demand planning and supply chain optimization.


6. Augmented reality (AR). 


Packaging can now interact digitally with consumers through augmented reality (AR) to provide security, product information, or entertainment. A recent study by Kezzler, a mass serialization firm, reveals that from 2016 to 2019, year-over-year growth in interactive packaging is 120%. “2020 is going to be a big year for AR-enabled and connected packaging,” said David Mather, senior marketing manager for Zappar, an AR firm. “Grab a smartphone and you can turn packaging into a digital discovery channel by increasing transparency about product provenance and ingredients, or creating meaningful moments of assistance, while driving purchase intent, loyalty, and repeat sales.”


7. Increased portability.


Many consumers eat on the go—to and from work, between appointments, etc. In response, proactive food and beverage manufacturers are meeting this need by creating portable packaging solutions that are easier to carry, use, or even consume. For example, McDonald’s has designed packaging just for cyclists that allows them to hook their meal on the handlebar; Dunkin Donuts, one of the world’s leading coffee chains, has developed a coffee cup top that is molded to carry condiments; and VitaPack offers paper-based packaging that lets you easily carry 1kilogram of fruit.


A Delectable Future


As consumers become increasingly particular about the food and beverages they purchase, manufacturers must think beyond the traditional packaging systems that provide the basics of safe delivery and consumption. They must be tuned into the ever-changing preferences of their customers and be ready to meet their expectations in order to maintain, or expand, their market share.


“Today it is the consumer who is largely driving consumer packaged goods choices,” states PKG. “Many factors have contributed to this, including increased concern for sustainability and the explosion of e-commerce. As the retail landscape continues to shift, food and beverage packaging will have to accommodate changes to protect brand integrity.”

"Imagine biting into an empty carton or swallowing a water bottle instead of recycling it. It sounds far-fetched, but the era of having your food and eating the wrapper too is becoming reality."
Josh White, Creative Director

OffWhite Company

    Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.

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