Packaging design trends for 2021

As the end of the year fast approaches, the time has come for industries to set their sights on the future and predict what 2021 will have in store for them.

Suffice to say, many industries – including retail – will be glad to see the back of 2020. A new year brings new opportunities and brands are keen to start afresh with a renewed sense of optimism. The start of the coronavirus vaccination roll-out brings hope for the economy’s recovery.

In this article, we cast a spotlight on retail packaging and consider three key trends likely to heavily influence design in 2021.

Sustainability remains a core focus

Of course, coronavirus has dominated conversations this year. But luckily, brands have not forgotten that the climate crisis remains our greatest challenge – and as a result, writes Packaging Europe, sustainability remains the watchword for packaging design.

So says designer Anna Sutherland: “All of the leading FMCG brands still have stringent packaging goals to meet and increasing pressure building from consumers and government regulations.” 

Prioritising sustainability is not just the right thing to do, it also plays into consumer habits and demands. In a survey released in October, 55% of British shoppers admitted to actively seeking sustainable packaging. 

Over six in ten (62%) said they are thinking about sustainability more than they were five years ago, with shoppers under 45 most keen for the sector to prioritise environmentally friendly packaging.

Brands must continue to rethink package design – for instance, by ditching traditional category codes for items and using more sustainable formats instead, such as alcohol in pulp bottles, or body wash in aluminium cans. 

There are many examples of major brands making bold sustainability moves. Colgate has launched what’s claimed to be the world’s first recyclable toothpaste tube, while Smarties is now using recyclable paper wrappers for its chocolate. 

As Sutherland states: “Brands can no longer get away with greenwashing and many are becoming fully transparent with supply chain in order to engage consumers.”

Brands get experimental 

We are starting to see more experimental sustainable materials used for packaging design, too – including innovative biomaterials made using seaweed, mushrooms, corn-starch and so on. It is not completely clear how such raw materials would fit into the circular economy, but in future they may “create a new aesthetic trend in themselves,” says Sutherland.

Greater push for omnichannel design 

By now brands are more than aware of the importance of joining channels in order to provide the best possible experience for customers. 

Packaging must follow suit: while brands are experimenting with omnichannel design, at present the majority of packages are optimised for brick-and-mortar stores. This will need to change, especially with new e-commerce and subscription services proving increasingly popular among consumers, which requires a fresh approach to package design. 

For instance, forward-thinking brands optimising packaging for delivery while ensuring they deliver a customer experience that sets them apart from the rest. Apple is a good example: it has decided to no longer ship a power adapter in its iPhone boxes to reduce its environmental impact. The lighter and slimmer box means that 70% more items can fit on a shipping pallet and customers are encouraged to use the plugs they already have at home. 

Packaging that works harder 

Covid has changed in-store shopping habits: consumers are keen to get in and out of the shop, as opposed to spending a long time browsing. What this means is that packaging will need to go a step further to grab shoppers’ attention at the point of sale. 

The Delta Group – one step ahead of the trends

The Delta Group can help you to effectively harness the latest trends in packaging design, especially when it comes to sustainability. 

For instance, we have a wide-format, single-pass Nozomi printer which prints directly onto corrugated materials. This offers a more cost-effective and sustainable solution by reducing plastics and glues. 

Overall, we operate with sustainability front of mind at all times. We make sure we procure materials from eco-friendly sources with low energy consumption and optimum water usage, and are now using 100% green electricity.

If you’d like to find out more about this or our Nozomi printing solutions, get in touch today.