Nathan Dube

By: Nathan Dube on November 14th, 2019

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The Top 5 Packaging Trends For 2020

Environment | The Business of Packaging | Packaging Design | Shipping Protection

Every year, the packaging industry produces some unique trends. Consumer buying habits change with time and in 2020 we expect to see some new things come to fruition. From sustainability and environmentally friendly packaging to "smart packaging" and beyond, the future is here. In the article below, we will take a look at the top 5 packaging trends for 2020 and muse about the dynamics of each.


1. Sustainability And Environmentally Friendly Packaging Materials


2020 will see an even greater demand for sustainable packaging supplies than we already do, and that is saying something. 2019 saw some of the largest climate change protests ever in the history of the world with large demonstrations throughout various countries all around the globe. As the millennial and "Z" generations continue  expanding into the workforce and become greater consumers; sustainability, recycling, and environmental issues will continue to take center stage.


From zero-waste packaging reforms to reusable packaging programs such as LOOP, earth-friendly packaging supplies are expected to continue to boom in popularity and produce greater demand from consumers. Flexible packaging supplies such as stand up pouches, shrink film and stretch film will be joined by new plant-based alternatives such as bio-polymer based packaging plastics.



The ever louder chant of "reduce, reuse and recycle" is only expected to grow louder as the world continues to become aware of the environmental impacts of packaging supplies on the environment. The ocean cleanup continues to pave the way for the restoration of our oceans. The vast problems associated with plastics and other waste materials that have found their way to our sea will force companies to offer environmentally friendly alternatives to our current array of packaging materials such as glass, metal, paper, plastic and cardboard.


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2. Smart Packaging, Augmented Reality And Gamification


Whether we are talking about augmented reality, QR codes or RFID tech, it all relates to the idea of smart packaging. As our technological innovations continue to evolve, we will be seeing more interactive and multimedia applications for augmented reality in regards to everything from wine to kids toys. RFID applications will help to ensure superior tracking capabilities for all products and gamification will continue to change how consumers interact with products and their packaging.


Hold up... What is gamification? From Wikipedia:


Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. It can also be defined as a set of activities and processes to solve problems by using or applying the characteristics of game elements. Gamification commonly employs game design elements to improve user engagement,organizational productivity, flow, learning, crowdsourcing, employee recruitment and evaluation, ease of use, usefulness of systems, physical exercise, traffic violations, voter apathy, and more. A collection of research on gamification shows that a majority of studies on gamification find it has positive effects on individuals. However, individual and contextual differences exist.


In the realm of packaging, we will see gamification objectives invoking educational experiences for children, playful and artistic designs which evoke the spirit of the product contained inside, and badge accumulation and awards akin to that of social media and mobile gaming. We will also see an increase in video and digital gaming experiences paired with traditional packaging materials.


As the rise of the unboxing experience for vintage, luxury, and unique packaging experiences continue to draw consumers to unexpectedly moving experiences, we will likely continue to see the merging of traditional packaging materials such as cardboard and paper being crossed with digital technologies in ways which we have never seen before...




3. Vintage Packaging


As the saying goes, "what is old is new again". In our modern technology-driven age, consumers are beginning to show more interest in experiences that hark back to simpler times. With the rise of consumer's desire to recreate the joy of retro experiences in music, video games, movies, and other media forms, the nostalgia-driven magic of "the days of old" will continue to manifest growth in the re-interest in classic experiences. From DIELINES "analog is the new vintage" case study and 99designs commentary on the subject, it would seem that looking back is in fact, looking ahead.


In the world of packaging this means that we will be seeing more modern designs based on vintage aesthetics and colors. Typography, color tones, messaging, branding and related dynamics will be reaching for their for-bearers success by tugging at the emotions these designs have on consumers both young and old. The allure in this trend rests in the fact that vintage packaging boasts an air of beauty, quality, fashion and respect that many modern types of packaging have left behind for cost reduction and sustainability concerns.


Not unlike luxury packaging which often utilizes the tropes and aesthetics of vintage design, the vintage packaging niche market will need to tread carefully when it comes to sustainability. As the combination of various materials in luxury packaging can result in hard to recycle waste byproducts, vintage packaging must find a way to straddle the fence between sustainability and the dynamics it requires to fulfill the experience expected by the consumer.


4. Minimalist Packaging


Minimalism in packaging is a reference not only to the amount of packaging material being used in order to ensure the least impact on the environment, but also in regards to the branding of the product contained within it. Straight forward, easy to digest, high contrast designs that clearly and simply state the contents of the package are paramount to many consumers going into 2020.


While there are many reasons for the rise of minimalist packaging, consumers demand for simplicity and environmentally friendly products are two of the driving factors behind the growth of these items. Flexible packaging supplies have seen steady growth over the past few years for these very reasons.


Minimalist packaging seems to fly in the face of both vintage and luxury packaging materials. There is no doubt that they will be vying against these kinds of packaging supplies with a particular focus on younger generations who are taking climate change and the effects of pollution extremely seriously.


As brands try to pull the attention of the consumer towards their products, we will likely see product innovations that bridge the gap between minimalism, luxury, vintage, and personalized packaging supplies as each of these dynamics continue to drive or repel the interests of consumers from one market to the next.


5. Evolution In E-commerce Packaging


Finally, we come to e-commerce. In the age of Amazon, one thing is clear. E-commerce is here and it is here to stay. This area of the world of packaging posses some interesting challenges to both companies and consumers. Amazon is buckling down on their commitment to ensuring that their packaging is both strong and protective of the products inside while simultaneously speaking of a dedication to sustainability and environmental issues. It is no surprise that other companies in the e-com business are also trying to balance this act.


In the article above, Amazon notes that while the packaging that is appropriate for brick and mortar retail situations make sense in that context, many of those materials and their branding practices are rendered unnecessary and often times sub-optimal packaging for e-com applications.


With many customers often expressing distaste for excessive packaging and the environmental concerns that come with it, businesses engaged in selling through e-commerce websites need to be able to find a balance between properly packaging and protecting their products without utilizing an excess of materials. The world is growing ever more conscious about waste and pollution and these concerns are also at the forefront of e-com packaging.


However, when it comes down to the debate about flexible packaging supplies such as shrink film and stretch film versus the current alternatives such as cardboard, paper, metal and glass, the science about sustainability and the environment is clear...


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About Nathan Dube

As the Digital Marketing Specialist at Industrial Packaging, I am honored to create content for such a phenomenal company and work with one of the greatest teams in the Packaging Industry. Whether creating a video, writing blog posts or generating other pieces of content and multimedia, I am always excited to help educate and inspire our prospects and clients to reach their highest potential in regards to their packaging processes and needs.