Packaging Innovations 2016. What's next for the packaging industry?

* 3 min read

There was a great turnout at this year’s Packaging Innovations show. From the big guys to budding startups, the whole spectrum of brands, suppliers and agencies were in attendance. Amid all the hubbub we managed to catch a few great sessions too.

As ever, new developments and approaches were at the top of the agenda. And in addition to the latest tech and innovation, there was no shortage of invaluable insight on offer.

Take a look at our top three takeouts.

1. What’s next for the packaging industry?

Opening the keynote theatre was the ever-engaging Graham Fox, Innocent’s packaging operations manager. His talk on the recruiting challenges facing the industry touched on several areas close to our heart. In particular, the prospect of widespread automation within the world of packaging.

In the main, Fox was referring to factory production lines, but like other industries, packaging is experiencing automation across disciplines. The advantages are clear: machines can generally carry out routine tasks faster and cheaper. More than that, automation can lead to greater efficiencies of scale, with consistency and transparency as clear benefits.

That’s certainly what our own SUNrise product management software system, launched this month, has been designed to do.

As Fox continued though, there was clearly discomfort in the room. The unacknowledged elephant was the fear that jobs will be lost. Beyond personal interest, the fear extended to the loss of quality and creativity.

Our own frontline experience with clients tells us that the classic tension between quality and quantity will only become more pertinent. So it’s up to us as a sector to ensure we maintain better relationships with our clients, relationships that balance their need for what machines – and digital – can deliver, with the invaluable human factor. Innovation isn’t slowing, but that doesn’t mean the robots are going to take over.

2. The power of bespoke

Lynn Butterworth of Quintessential Brands covered some crucial areas too. Namely the role suppliers play when it comes to innovation.

Aside from the universal truths Lynn laid out, we were especially struck by what she had to say about bespoke. It’s a simple but effective way of generating an eye-catching packaging design.

Lynn mentioned her own work on Bloom Gin and it got us thinking about our favourite, genuinely unique designs in the world drinks packaging. Of course, there’s the timeless Coke bottle – and many others from our History of the World… series. It’s seen various iterations over its long history, but its distinctive shape has remained essentially the same. Would Coke have such brand recognition if it had a standard bottle?                                     

3. Championing the little guy

It’s only natural to give Little Fingers Organic Baby Food some love in our roundup. Marcus (the owner of Little Fingers) and Kate Fischer’s session was a roaring success, with audience members demonstrating some real interest in the product. They’ve got a lot more in store for the coming year and we can’t wait to see how they get on.

If you didn’t get a chance to hear the story of how the brand came to be, here’s a quick, potted history:

Married couple Marcus and Joanne, a food developer and chef by trade, approached Sun Branding Solutions when they wanted to launch Little Fingers. Inspired by their kids Bobby and Daniel, they saw a gap in the market for healthy baby finger foods. Equipped with the cooking skills and nutritional know-how, they hired Sun Branding Solutions to come up with a cost-effective packaging design.

We worked with them on brainstorming a brand identity and logo, looking at a range of mood boards and examples – and the rest was history. We even had some babies in the studio for research! Ultimately, we settled on a see-through pack with a bright eye-catching label – which saved on production costs and aligned with Joanne and Marcus’ vision. A couple of years down the line, Little Fingers has growing ambitions.