Top 5 trends in food packaging design

Top 5 trends in food packaging design

Veritiv Packaging | August 24, 2020


Food, glorious food—and to that, we would add food packaging. It’s functional, sure, but the material, design and what the packaging communicates are what gets our Veritiv packaging teams excited.

Consumers are intrigued by packaging, too. It’s often the first thing that gets their attention when faced with an abundance of choices. Packaging can turn on or turn off interest, and a consumer’s purchase decision is well underway as they explore the packaging from all angles. Their scrutiny informs purchases whether the buying is done online or in-person.

Factors that drive packaging innovation
Trends in product packaging spring up for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s a newly available packaging material that sparks a trend. Many times, it’s the creative design and branding experts that create the package that kicks off the trend.

The current environment inspires packaging innovation, as well. Online shopping is at an all-time high, with more people wanting food and other goods delivered to their homes.

According to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index for July 2020, U.S. consumer purchases during the pandemic are responsible for an additional $93.9 billion spent online since March. Through July, the online sales hit $434.5 billion.

Food packaging’s many roles
While product packaging may seem more about function than frills, it has a tall order to fill to meet the many needs of food manufacturers and choosey consumers. Packaging needs to be shelf-ready, functional, designed to protect what’s inside, eye-catching, on-brand and environmentally friendly.

As we look at the factors shaping the food industry today, five areas stand out where innovation thrives and trends emerge.

1. Materials and sustainability
With our reliance on “order today, get it tomorrow” convenience comes the need for packaging to do an effective job in its role. Food companies use temperature controlled packaging to ensure their products don’t arrive spoiled or damaged, which would require re-processing the order and could negatively impact company profitability and their brand if the product consistently arrives spoiled or damaged. Better insultation, increased thermal performance and new packaging types in development make this a dynamic area to watch and learn from.

Consumers care about sustainability, too. This requires food manufacturers to continually refine their product packaging and introduce new sustainable options to the market based on growing consumer demand and emerging trends.

2. Innovations in digital printing
Packaging designers and food manufacturers work together to create food containers that are attractive, creatively designed and unique. One way to keep pace with trends is by using digital printing, which offers several notable advantages over traditional printing.

Food companies can quickly test out new packaging designs and configurations and enjoy other benefits of this plate-less printing technique:

  • It’s easier and more economical to do short test runs and test new ideas to increase awareness and engagement.
  • There’s less waste and inventory obsolescence if the product, branding, messaging or other variables change.
  • There are virtually limitless material options and configurations.

One example of digital printing on food packaging is versioning, where multiple printed versions of the same product grab attention on store shelves or online, differently packaged yet representing the same brand.

Another example, personalized digital printing, facilitates custom package printing for different locations, specific target markets or for use during a limited time period, such as in a seasonal promotion.

3. Technological advances
Digital printing is one high-tech aspect of the food packaging industry—and there are many others, such as:

  • Augmented reality. This packaging type combines a physical product with a digital experience to make the product come alive. It elevates the packaging’s purpose from being merely functional to one that informs and even entertains.
  • QR codes. Much-hyped in other countries for years, QR codes are gaining ground in the U.S. Food manufacturers use these codes to deliver an interactive experience to consumers or provide more information about the products and their usage.
  • Mass serialization. This “smart” packaging allows every package to be unique. Product data is noted on the outside and can be made available to supply chain applications. It lets the customer interact and add data to the packages, such as where they are, when they bought the package, and more.

4. Stronger alignment with company brands
Consumers can be both loyal and fickle, choosing which food products to purchase repeatedly and which to abandon. The stronger a brand’s connection with the consumer, the more likely it will keep them as customers.

Food packaging reflects the brand’s values and vision, and consumers want to be aligned with companies that mesh with their lifestyle and personal beliefs. “The power of brand is more important than ever,” says Barbara Hamilton, Regional Design Director with Veritiv. “Companies need to connect with consumers and maintain and nurture brand loyalty.” 

5. Form, function and expertise in food packaging
Veritiv’s demonstrated food packaging expertise includes design and engineering for beverage, meat, produce, bakery and many other food segments. (Learn more about Veritiv’s packaging solutions here.)

Our newly launched brand and packaging design agency, Vine, provides our food manufacturer and other customers with packaging design solutions that bridge the gap between ideas and execution. The Vine team pairs innovation and design creativity with Veritiv’s testing and supply chain expertise.