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It’s the season for Packaging Trends!

Towards the end of any year we have an avalanche of Packaging Trends coming through the mailbox. Then come a decade end and the number of summaries is doubled. We get both the Greatest Hits from 2019 and Top of the Pops from the last 10 years.

Please misunderstand me correctly, I like lists like everybody else, it’s just that the structure doesn’t necessary bring clarity. We do like to have 10 of them in a row and in the end a few bystanders might have to be squeezed in. To make the number.

It’s not easy to define trends that are so general that they cover the industry, but yet specific enough to be interesting. The packaging industry is a complex one with examples of contradicting developments and few lines pointing in one and the same direction. Some are for example moving from plastics to save the world others are moving into plastics to minimise greenhouse gasses. All depending on perspective.

There are a few trends that I think still can fit the bill to be general and specific enough but even so containing contradictions.

Plastics We can conclude that the main trend is towards using less plastics. There is clearly an increased demand for no-plastic, less-plastic, some-plastic and bio-plastic solutions. The reasons vary and are unfortunately not always fact based. The trend has got quite some media coverage and the SUP directive was recently voted through in the European Parlaiment to be implemented already in 2021. This is leading to intense activity to find viable alternatives to single use plastic items.

At the same time Amazon decides that it is time to shift from fibre-based shippers to plastic bags. A decision that will likely set a trend for the rest of the industry. Amazon mentions environmental benefits to back the decision, reduced consumption of energy and natural resources during production, reduced CO2 emissions, and fewer vehicles required during transportation.

Less Packaging The general trend is in one way towards using thinner material and less material, to save both the environment and cost. Some consumers are loudly demanding less packaging, but consumers are also increasingly shopping online.

E-commerce is fast growing on a global scale and is bringing on change for all involved in FMCG trading. One of these changes is that products are often distributed as single units or in combination with random other products. As opposed to traditional retailing when products are safely sent around in a tray or case sitting on a pallet. The result is that products in general needs more and protective packaging to arrive safely to destination. This is not an easy task, to define the trends.

Recyclable Or reusable or refillable or returnable, or even compostable…? We are certain that we want more recyclable packaging to be used. But first of all, we need the infrastructure to collect, handle and recycle the used packaging. Then it is really up to the individual consumer to use the system.

An alternative to throw away packaging waste is to return and refill the emptied packaging. Just like in the old days and Loop is a new concept on this path. Here a few of the leading global food and beverage manufacturers are joining forces with global recycling organization TerraCycle to create a circular shopping platform.  Consumers order products that get delivered in a shipping tote instead of a box. Goods arrive in durable, reusable or fully recyclable packaging made from materials such as alloys, glass, and engineered plastics. Once the products are used, customers place empties back into the tote, schedule a free pick-up, and the system makes sure the products get automatically replenished. Brilliant.

Packaging is a traditional industry, that needs fresh ideas. In contradicting times, in particular, you need a steady stream of fresh ideas. Standing still is probably the worst option.

So, I wish you all a very happy and fast moving 2020.




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