Industry Market Trends

5 Consumer Trends Shaking Up the Packaging Industry

Mar 26, 2014

Consumer buying habits are in constant motion, influenced by evolving lifestyles and now a sense of social citizenship. Packaging thus not only has to protect the products inside but also the greater good while being striking on the shelf and fuss-free in use.

Consumers are continually changing the way they view, interact with, and discard packaging. Whether you're a manufacturer or a product marketer, you know how important it is to reflect the changing needs of the consumer in your products. From convenience to traceability, here are five of the most important consumer packaging trends you need to know about, in order to maximize the potential of packaging your products in today's market.

1. Sustainability

Consumers are becoming increasingly more aware of global environmental issues and are changing their buying habits accordingly. These days, it's "cool to care," and consumers are actively seeking out semiotic signs on packaging that manufacturers have a green conscience but are wary of greenwashing. Understanding how commitment to sustainability can be communicated in an engaging way on the packaging is key to attracting, relating to, and keeping consumers.

"Sustainable Packaging: Myth or Reality," an expert white paper by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), explains how sustainable practice has become essential to the perception and identity of a brand. In line with its ambition to be the world's "most sustainable and desirable sportswear brand," Puma worked with PwC to produce an environmental profit and loss account, highlighting a €145 million environmental impact across its supply chain. Recognition of this allows the manufacturer to build a more sustainable and resilient model for the future and to communicate its green achievements to consumers.

It seems that sustainability is no longer an optional add-on -- it's an essential part of future business planning for those in the packaging industry. The complete story of a product is becoming a key factor in purchasing decisions -- where does it come from, how was it made, and what are its recycling credentials?

2. Healthy Living

The health and wellness sector is booming, reflecting a wider public desire to understand what is and isn't good for us. Consumers now expect packaging and branding to display the health and nutrition credentials of the product both quickly and concisely, allowing them to make informed choices. Regulations often stipulate how this information must be displayed, and packaging must balance these needs.

The healthy living market is crowded, and it can be difficult for products to attract (and maintain) attention when on the shelf. It's therefore important for packaging to focus on unique benefits, such as natural ingredients and formulations, and offer information transparency on the label. Innovative methods of displaying and preserving fresh food will also be key for short- and long-term success.

Healthy snacking alternatives may be a way of overcoming this issue. Increased consumer snacking encourages product innovations offering healthy snacks in smaller packaging formats. Light snacks in small packets that advertise low-fat content is a way to differentiate from market competition.

3. Convenience

Increasingly busy lifestyles mean that consumers are seeking ease of use and convenient transportation with their packaging. Smaller, lighter, and more easily disposable packaging makes consumption-on-the-go easier. Innovations such as no-mess applicators and dispensers eliminate the need for additional packaging, further adding to a no-fuss and disposable approach.

This need for convenience is particularly visible in the supermarket chilled foods sector. The market has been seeing resealable packs among a variety of snack goods, which successfully balance convenience with perceived freshness. We have seen a shift from plastic to paperboard packaging with fresh salads, leading to increased visibility of the product that aids in impulse buying decisions.

4. Authenticity and Trust

As a result of several global food scandals, such as the discovery of horsemeat in beef burgers in many UK supermarkets, there is now more demand for transparency between manufacturers and consumers.

Origins of products need to be traceable back to their sources to re-establish trust throughout the supply chain. Advertised provenance on packaging increases perceptions of credibility and authenticity and reassures consumers of high quality and truthful produce. Linking local provenance to sustainability and communicating the carbon footprint benefits to consumers help your brand. This is particularly effective in the yellow fats and butter market due to increased demand for natural ingredients in high-fat foods.

5. Cost-Effective Shopping

There's no avoiding global economic uncertainty. Understandably, consumers don't want to pay any more than they have to for their packaged goods, and cost is one of the first considerations made when making buying decisions. There is a growing tendency for consumers to make purchases when they are running out of a specific product, as opposed to taking an advanced, "pantry-loading" approach as has been the norm. Smaller and easier-to-carry types of packaging therefore hold the greatest potential for these money-conscious, last-minute shoppers.

Photo credit: John Kasawa at 

Smithers Pira is the worldwide authority on packaging, paper and print industry supply chains. Established in 1930, the company provides strategic and technical consulting, testing, intelligence, and events to help clients gain market insights, identify opportunities, evaluate product performance, and manage compliance. Smithers Pira offers a range of in-depth market reports, such as The Brand Owner's Trend Report: Consumer Packaging to 2018, which includes a strategic guide to the relationship between brands and packaging, the impact of new technologies, changing consumer attitudes, and opportunities for brand owners, converters, and suppliers. For more information, visit