The future of food packaging

by Monica Watrous
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Digital printing helps brands reach consumers on a local, personal or emotional level, like Coca Cola's "Share a Coke" campaign.

CHICAGO — Packaging plays a key role in helping brands overcome a growing lack of consumer loyalty, according to a new report from Mintel.

David Luttenberger, global packaging director at Mintel

“There’s a parallel path between brands striving to engage consumers on a more personal level and consumers’ expectations for packaging to deliver that experience,” said David Luttenberger, global packaging director at Mintel. “Brands and manufacturers are innovating packaging to keep global consumers not only engaged, but to develop brand loyalty, which is becoming more and more intangible in this modern age where consumers have more choices than ever before across all packaged goods.”

In the report, Mr. Luttenberger identified six trends set to transform the global packaging industry in 2016.

The rise of digital printing
Brands and packaging converters will leverage the economic and speed-to-market advantages of digital printing to connect with consumers on a local, personal or emotional level. A recent example is The Coca-Cola Co.’s successful “Share a Coke” campaign, which has proven particularly popular among the key millennial group, of which one in five seek custom or personalized packaging, according to Mintel.

On-pack transparency
Less is more when it comes to product claims on packaging, as consumers show preference for clear and concise information about ingredients, functional benefits and safety. “Looking ahead, the concepts of clean labeling and clear on-pack communication are set to converge,” Mr. Luttenberger said.

Flexible is in
Nearly a third of consumers consider flexible packaging to be modern, but standup pouches may be peaking, Mintel said. Innovative brands will discover the next generation of hybrid packaging, featuring both rigid and flexible components, that promises functional and environmental benefits and a striking shelf presence.

Standup pouches may be peaking in favor of packaging with both rigid and flexible components.

Beyond sustainable
Reusable and repurposable packaging is a key purchasing driver for 63% of U.S. consumers, according to Mintel. Sustainability may be the deciding factor between products if price and perceived quality are equal.

“Going forward, brands cannot afford to ignore this ‘ecologically friendly’ purchasing driver as they develop their brand positioning and marketing strategies,” Mr. Luttenberger said.

Size it up
Consumers are seeking more variety in pack sizes, and manufacturers must deliver to overcome a growing lack of brand loyalty, Mintel said. Value-conscious families want larger container sizes for milk, and more than half of health-conscious snackers are more likely to try a new product if it is available in a trial-size pack, according to Mintel.

Consumers are seeking variety in pack sizes.

Going mobile
Gone are the days of “clunky” QR and text codes, Mintel said. Savvy brands are tapping new technologies, including near-field communication and Bluetooth low-energy, to engage consumers through packaging.

“Moving forward, as brands clamor for innovative ways to engage and connect with shoppers, the mobile environment will become the new front line in the battle to win consumers’ hearts, minds and wallets,” Mr. Luttenberger said.

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