Future trends - Gillian's take from Packaging News Live

* 3 min read

1. Online over local: the way we shop in 2015

The power of packaging to transmit brand messages remains as strong as ever. It will always influence what we buy and how we instinctively tell brands apart. Shopping online, though, has caused a shift, bringing ideas of practicality and convenience to the fore.

Of course, internet shopping isn’t limited to Amazon, ASOS or the weekly food shop. But it’s easy to forget what a gamechanger it is in other areas. Ordering bulk-bought commodity products online, such as pet food and disposable nappies for instance, saves just as much time, money and effort. Effectively consumers can order more than they would be able to carry in-store. It’s a no-brainer really – why would you break your back when you could get those heavier, bulkier, longer-lasting products delivered to your door? 

The same principles ring true with the rest of our online purchases. But as we move away from shopping locally, whether it’s to find new clothes, stock up on supplies or plan ahead, there is the risk of contributing to “over-packaging”. When you buy something in person, you tend to carry it home or stick it in your boot to drive back with. Online delivery, on the other hand, generally results in at least one extra layer of packaging.

Delivery services certainly fill a gap that supermarkets just can’t accommodate. Nevertheless, they represent dangerously wasteful practices that need to be addressed urgently. As the rules that used to dictate our shopping habits become irrelevant, there’s a concurrent opportunity for more sustainable behaviour.

2. Sustainability, reusability and packaging that works for all

So how do we tackle this problem? The widely-held view is that moving forward closed-loop recycling will be essential. As we say goodbye to the returnable bottle – Irn Bru and glass milk bottles included – we have to start thinking of ways to make online delivery services work to reduce waste.

Analysis conducted by Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimated that one-fifth of the UK economy is already operating in a circular fashionWhat’s more, some supermarkets already offer consumers the option to have their groceries arrive unbagged in returnable crates. Other developments in this area will revolve around dark-stores and how we can make the journey between warehouse and doorstep more sustainable.

That said, some of the most exciting and successful packaging innovations of late are those that are tailored to different aspects of our lifestyles. Smarter brands are refining their product range to meet our needs and Heinz Beans is a case in point. Their classic offering, the Heinz Beans tin, will remain eternally popular as the most-affordable, readily-available choice. But Heinz’s new ‘fridge pack’ and ‘snap pot’, offer better portion control, working to suit families and singles alike, with the added benefit of counteracting food waste. It will be a combination of these small but far-reaching changes that will help us move forward.

3. The future – Sustainable living

Ultimately, a lot of responsibilities lies with big brands and companies. It’s great to see IKEA looking ahead with their Kitchen of the Future concept.  With its mock-up of our homes in 2025, the project places a particular emphasis on the role technology will play in helping us behave more sustainably. Most strikingly, IKEA puts forward the idea of storing food visually, with a “modern pantry” chock-full of futuristic add-ons.

Leaving food to rot at the back of the fridge is a troublingly common source of waste. This vision of the future of refrigeration goes hand in hand with smart packaging. As RFID continues to build momentum, these are the advancements that we have to invest in. Closely allied with increasingly internet-dominated lives, we’re presented with an opportunity to bridge the gap between the digital world and protecting the environment.