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What does the future hold for packaging designers?
The packaging industry is evolving, consumer purchasing habits are changing, so what does the future of packaging design hold?
Since the 1930s plastic has played a major part in the food and drink industry. Will we ever see a plastic-free mainstream UK supermarket in our lifetime?
A small supermarket in Amsterdam has already managed it, selling more than 700 products such as milk in glass bottles, loose fruit and veg, and fresh items wrapped in compostable plant-based materials. We’re gradually adjusting to the new carrier bag laws, when we remember to take our ‘bag for life’ to the shops. Will there be a case for taking our own fruit and veg containers to fill up in future, just like ‘pick your own’ strawberry farms in the summer, or how our parents and grandparents used to shop with fruit and veg sold in brown paper bags?
Packaging companies are constantly innovating to ensure they can meet the demands of their customers and advise them on more environmentally friendly solutions when it comes to packaging their products. One of the companies we’ve worked with, Coveris, have recently launched a revolutionary plastic-free sandwich packaging that is more easily recycled within the UK infrastructure: https://www.coveris.co.uk/blog/coveris-launches-revolutionary-plastic-free-sandwich-skillet And recently a new hyper-compostable, fully-edible drinks straw has been launched to potentially replace single-use plastic straws: https://www.foodbev.com/news/pernod-ricard-supports-loliwares-launch-of-edible-straws/
Other pioneering work in the packaging industry includes creating biodegradable plastic out of egg whites from waste eggs and extracting keratin from waste chicken feathers to add to biopolymers to produce full recyclable, biodegradable packaging. There has recently also been a development in the innovation of a fully biodegradable cellulose, which is thought to be one of the more challenging aspects of plastic packaging, used as the film seal for the top of ready meal trays for example. The German ministry of agriculture is currently funding a project to create sustainable, biodegradable and potentially edible packaging from algae.*
If we are potentially facing a packaging-free or at least a packaging-reduced food and drink industry, how will this affect packaging design and branding? Will consumers be driven not by branding, colour or imagery, but more on the environmental characteristics or recyclable qualities of the packaging? For example, one of the more prominent packaging stories last year featured Marks & Spencer replacing labels on their avocados with laser-markings, showing best before date and origin, removing the need for any packaging or label materials.
As graphic designers, our challenges will be ever greater, with potentially smaller surface areas to work with or reduced print specifications. Will we go back to black print on a brown bag for instance? Or single colour print on a clear glass bottle? Does this mean brands will need greater stand out through point of sale and merchandising in-store or online and not be so reliant on their packaging to stand out on-shelf above their competitors? With online shopping removing the ‘real life’ shelf-browsing factor, it will be come even more important for the brand qualities to be communicated by other methods, such as consumer advocacy or brand influencers.
We may also find we have larger print areas to design with and brand a product, for instance if plastic or glass bottled drinks, often with smaller labels, move to cans with a potentially larger surface area for graphics. (As seen in our latest packaging design for St Peter’s English Ale in cans for export to Canada – where craft beer in cans is more popular, partly due to the reduced environmental impacts versus glass bottles).
As designers we relish these challenges and look forward to opportunities to work with our clients to produce responsible effective solutions, whatever the boundaries.
* Sources: The Grocer magazine, 24 March 2018
The Finishing Post Design & Marketing Consultants are a full service creative agency based in the East of England. Specialising in packaging design, retail point of sale and offering the full range of marketing support including branding, exhibition design, digital marketing, advertising and literature.
Enjoy the festivities!
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