The application of food packaging has witnessed a tremendous transformation in recent years. What was once a mere vessel for the storage, transport, and sale of food items has now evolved into an integral pillar of brand engagement and growth.
Today, the burgeoning food packaging market continues to innovate and expand at a healthy pace. According to current market estimates, the industry could well reach a value of USD 411 billion by 2025.
As it becomes more important for organizations to get their food packaging design right, we see all kinds of promising experiments and research coming up around us. From smart and interactive designs to the latest in eco-friendly food packaging applications, brands have been pushing the boundaries and working with their consumers to deliver a more complete experience with every purchase.
Now, the question is: Where do we go from here?
With the world of food packaging constantly exploring new avenues, organizations will need to formulate strategies that not only distill today’s innovation, but also blend it well with established best practices and brand guidelines.
To get you started, we took a deep dive into the food packaging trends that are sure to impact businesses and consumers over the coming years.
Here’s what we found.
Top food packaging trends in 2022
- Eco-friendly food packaging
- Interactive food packaging
- Intelligent food packaging
- Transparent food packaging
- Retro food packaging
Looking at everything that has been developing across the industry, there’s clearly a lot that your business can incorporate into its packaging strategy moving forward. Let’s now unpack each of these trends and explore their implications in detail.
1. Eco-friendly food packaging
The 2025 target for sustainable packaging goals draws closer every day, but organizations still have a lot to accomplish as they take on plastic pollution at the source.
Emerging from the uncertainty of the pandemic, states across America passed legislation in various forms to drive the growth of sustainable packaging. Organizations now have a much greater responsibility towards realizing a circular economy for plastics that ensures zero wastage.
It may all take some effort, but with at least one in three consumers willing to pay more in exchange for greater sustainability, switching to eco-friendly food packaging will only benefit businesses in the long run.
Brands are starting to recognize this, with mono material packaging gaining a fair bit of momentum in recent years. Today, brands including L’Oréal, Carlsberg, Absolut, Coca Cola Europe, and Procter & Gamble have joined the Paper Bottle Community driven by Paboco and more brands could be encouraged to adopt paper food packaging in the near future.
Plenty of other innovative packaging experiments are being explored now. If successful, these experiments would ensure we see a lot more eco-conscious packaging on our shelves very soon. The packaging of tomorrow could include sustainable package printing based on eco-friendly ink and witness the return of antimicrobial packaging arising from a growing consumer interest in preservative-free food.
2. Interactive food packaging
Brands have experimented plenty with their physical packaging in recent years. From Samova’s delightful Flowering Tea Bags to Thelma’s Cookies and its ‘oven box’ that gives you the feeling of pulling a fresh tray of cookies out of the oven, there have been a number of interesting designs over the years that have used physical packaging to interact with customers once they’ve bought the product.
The next logical step for interactive packaging comes in the form of augmented reality (AR), which has been gaining traction in recent years. In fact, the blooming AR market is estimated to be a $198 billion industry by 2025, so brands are now looking to get in on the action and engage customers in increasingly smarter ways.
Jones Soda came up with a brilliant campaign that featured 15 creators across different varieties of soda and expanded their interaction with consumers into an AR experience. Consumers were asked to download the Jones Soda app and scan the bottle, which would lead them to the story behind the label in the form of videos. User-generated content was encouraged as consumers were invited to upload their own reels to the Jones Soda gallery.
While the use of QR codes and AR communication will see a number of applications in the coming years, brands are also using Near-field Communication (NFC) and social media to encourage consumers to interact with their packaging. Several Italian olive oil brands including Il Cavallino, La Ranocchiaia, and Buonamici have been using NFC tags to assure consumers of the product’s authenticity and build trust in the brands.
Doritos created an engaging roulette campaign that brought reels and spicy chips together with influencers across TikTok and Instagram. The idea was simple — how long before you get to the spicy chip? Consumer interest in the brand shot up and the campaign served to solidify their identity through social engagement.
3. Intelligent food packaging
Even as technology continues to be applied to engage with consumers and build brand relationships, there are certain applications which can help brands maintain and improve upon the quality of their products.
The NFC OpenSense technology developed by Ensurge Micropower ASA and Jones Packaging has found several applications in the pharmaceutical and food packaging industries with organizations able to monitor the quality of their products, track inventory, and check their physical condition remotely.
Labels are also being upgraded with advanced biosensors developed using materials that change color depending on the quality of certain food items. This will not only help consumers know the exact quality of the product before they pick it off the shelf, but also allow stores to avoid the display of stale or spoiled food items.
More recently, with blockchain technology developing at an incredible pace, applications will soon be seen to make an impact in the food industry. IBM’s Food Trust is one such development that promises powerful supply chain visibility, allowing retailers to track spoiled or contaminated items in a matter of seconds. Organizations including Carrefour, Walmart, Wakefern Food, and Smithfield Foods are enjoying the benefits of IBM’s Food Trust and they are likely to be joined by others in due course of time.
4. Transparent food packaging
Transparent food packaging may not be particularly new or novel, but with growing awareness among consumers, brands are finding increasingly direct ways of assuring them of their products' quality.
What’s more, transparent packaging is being used in increasingly smarter ways to bring the design together. The result? Products where you not only see the food clear as day, but find that it interacts with the design in ways that bring a whole lot more out of the packaging.
Greenomic Delikatessen’s Good Hair Day Pasta is a shimmering example of this application of transparent packaging. The design makes best use of the variety in shape and texture that pasta offers and highlights this beautifully in its transparent packaging. The design makes the pasta feel larger than life, without really going overboard with packaging to do so.
RightRice took a slightly different approach with their transparent packaging, but achieved a similar impact in the end. Their design effectively displays the quality of the rice in each pack with the transparent area shaped like a bowl to attract consumers.
Full of Flavour, a Polish chocolate brand harnessed the power of illustrations to bring the most out of its transparent packaging. The interactive illustrations on the cover all point to the transparent area on the packaging, drawing all your attention to the product itself, in all its glory.
5. Retro food packaging
Nostalgia is a powerful feeling and brands continue to find ways to bring back retro to packaging designs. We saw this previously with beer label designs this year and now we’re seeing the same with food packaging designs as brands continue to come up with designs meant to take us back to the good old days.
High Tea with Harriet, an Australian tea brand built with love, uses packaging designs that reflect the same passion with just the right touch of vintage to take you through the ages. The design remains simple yet effective as it complements the logo well without bringing too many elements into the mix.
The Lithuanian chocolate brand Baltija is inspired by the Baltic sea in both name and design. The chocolate is mostly bought as a souvenir, so the brand decided they needed a design that would reflect the region and its heritage. The design effectively uses Victorian-style illustrations to deliver a timeless experience to consumers before they’ve even opened the box.
Tennessee’s Olive & Sinclair chocolates, on the other hand, went with a classic American design. The labels serve as a throwback to the times when designs were more functional than decorative, but each design still shines through in its simplicity as the chocolates are differentiated by the variety of colors in their labels.
With a diverse variety of trends building across the food packaging industry in recent years, it might seem like brands have a clear path to follow where modern food packaging is concerned. But for marketing teams within these organizations, things are barely getting started.
Even as your teams operate and collaborate with clear goals and objectives, the path that leads your label and packaging from the drawing board to the shelves in every store will be riddled with obstacles designed to slow you down. As with the growing applications of technology in food packaging, it only makes sense to use technology to streamline your label management process.
The resulting improvements in collaboration, regulatory compliance, and task management will free up you and your teams to deliver winning designs in less time to drive growth for your brand.