What your packaging is made from is just as important as what it looks like; however, many brands downplay this important decision in favour of focusing on design. Our global trend specialists can advise you on the latest packaging material trends to help you turn tomorrow’s innovative concepts into today’s eco-friendly reality.

Packaging keeps the world organised. Ultimately, as consumers, our key interest is what the packaging materials hold. Afterall, packaging is, first and foremost, a practical solution. However, the packaging can also be used to tell the story of the product within, as well as the story of the brand behind the product.

Packaging is the first touchpoint between the customer and the product. Oftentimes, it’s the thing that entices the customer to engage with the product in the first place.

It first engages us through sight, which is why product packaging design is commonly seen as the most important factor. However, the way packaging feels, and what it is made from, is increasingly more relevant as conscientious consumers make sustainable choices.

So what’s the story you want your packaging to convey? What are the most effective packaging materials to help you tell that story? Our global trend specialists have been on the lookout for the latest packaging material trends to help you get your message across.

Peeling back the packaging layers

Explore the packaging material trends for 2020

When it comes to choosing the right packaging materials, the first thing to consider is how many ‘layers’ of packaging your product requires.

There are three layers that are commonly used; referred to as primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging. The layers specify the container that holds/protects the product (primary), the outer wrapping that acts as the display on the shelf (secondary), and the way that multiple products will be packaged together for storage and shipping (tertiary).

If you think of a box of breakfast cereal, the primary packaging would be the bag that contains the cereal; the secondary packaging would be the box that displays the cereal on the supermarket shelf; the tertiary packaging would be the box that contained multiple boxes of cereal for shipping from the manufacturer to the supermarket.

Depending on the product requirements, the primary and secondary packaging can be combined to act as both the protection and the display. Taking the cereal example, many muesli and granola brands are now sold in a single layer of packaging that both protects the freshness of the grains, and attracts consumers in store.

Customers are increasingly rewarding brands that reduce their packaging. Think carefully about whether your product needs multiple packaging layers; or if selecting the right packaging materials could help you to combine layers and cut down on material usage.

Can you ditch the plastic?

Explore the packaging material trends for 2020

There can be no doubt that plastic is a scourge to our planet. Because plastic is such a persistent material, the ecological, economic and eco-toxicological effects of plastic pollution are all long-term.

Large numbers of brands are finally waking up to the severity of the issue. By 2025, The UK Plastics Pact will transform the UK plastic packaging sector. This is leading to manufacturers upping their innovation game to create plastic free alternatives to packaging materials.

We are seeing a massive rise in pioneering bioplastic packaging materials such as algae, corn starch, bamboo, and ‘Paptic’.

When thinking about your own packaging requirements, consider that many consumers won’t yet be able to tell the difference between a bioplastic and regular plastic at first glance. So, if a bioplastic is your choice for your packaging, we advise that you ensure the message is clear and apparent on the shelf. Otherwise, you could unfairly lose out on sales, even though you’re actively making eco-friendly packaging choices.

Consider post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials

Explore the packaging material trends for 2020

Post-consumer recycled materials are manufactured out of post-consumer waste – that is to say, waste that has been routinely discarded as no longer required.

Old newspapers, juice cartons, cardboard boxes, toilet roll inners, tissues, egg boxes: basically the stuff that you put into your (recycling) bin is post-consumer waste. This waste can be diverted from landfill and utilised in the production of other materials.

Post-consumer recycled materials that upcycle previously used products are the key to sustainable packaging. It ensures that the waste can have a second, third, fourth life, which vastly reduces our reliance on virgin materials. Our global trend specialists have noted a significant rise in the variety and volume of PCR materials for 2020.

In fact, many brands are now going a step further than their packaging. We’re seeing a huge rise in PCR materials being used to make the products themselves. Within the jewellery and accessories market in particular, items like sunglasses and bracelets being made from upcycled ocean plastics will become more ubiquitous this year.

Whether or not that is feasible for your product range is down to you. However, at the very least, making use of post-consumer waste to create your products’ packaging will contribute to the circular economy and position you favourably with today’s eco-conscious consumers.

Less is definitely more

Reducing the amount of packaging materials you use should be on your agenda in 2020. Consider how you can get down to as little packaging as possible. Working with a packaging design specialist like Tagit could show you areas where material usage could be greatly reduced, whilst maintaining the protection and/or display capacity required.

‘Mono Material’ is another one of the emerging packaging material trends that you could consider. Mono material packaging consists of one single material and really keeps everything simple. It makes the recycling efforts of both the consumer and their local recycling plant nice and straightforward. It also removes any ambiguity about which parts of the packaging can be recycled, and which can’t.

Packaging material trends in summary

Packaging is no longer ‘just a box’ – and brands will be penalised for thinking it is. As consumer awareness grows regarding the variety and availability of sustainable packaging materials, brands will be expected to keep up or risk getting left behind.

The change is coming thick and fast. Packaging should no longer just hold the good stuff, it should now also be the good stuff. With the volume of packaging waste reaching 11.6 million tonnes in a single year in the UK alone, thinking about where the packaging came from, and where it will go when it’s served its purpose, is incumbent on all of us.

By working with packaging experts like Tagit, you can tap into our years of expertise, as well as our global trends and innovation analysis, to ensure the materials you choose are completely fit for purpose. For your business, for your customers, and for our planet.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you with your packaging material requirements.

James Rowland

James Rowland is the Managing Director of Tagit Ltd, which he co-founded in 1996. His passion for all things related to design and packaging came from working in the art department of a packaging firm after leaving school in the late 80s. He taught himself to run the litho printers and die cutting machinery, and built up the production arm of the UK business. James’ entire career has been centred around the innovation, design and production of jewellery and accessory packaging, which is why Tagit attracts and retains clients around the globe. James cares deeply for the environment and has made it his mission to offer the best recyclable and sustainable packaging solutions for his customers, even if it affects the profitability of Tagit.