Looking back at 2016, the packaging industry took strides in more innovative, sustainable, holistic, technologically advanced and efficient directions. Realizing new opportunities in a variety of industries, as well as uncovering new challenges, members of the packaging world and beyond turned their heads towards advancements that would not only generate greater potential in materials, design, manufacturing, sourcing and end-of-life opportunities, but leveraging that potential throughout the value chain and across practices.

Among these new challenges, opportunities and innovations in the industry today, here are the key trends that HAVI (havi.com) and industry leaders agree will be dominating influencers in the coming year:

  • Establishing a “one size fits all” ecommerce model – Since ecommerce has taken a major share of the retail market, we’ve seen the wild west emerge with a variety of online retailers, aggregators and digital distributors that come and go, attempting to write and rewrite the rules of the rapidly emerging industry. With Amazon proving to have the most authority on what needs to be shipped, when, how and in what quantity, brands are having a difficult time fitting into their ecommerce model. Traditional single SKU case shipments from brand owners are in quantities to stock shelves and sell through, but Amazon requires an “each” model as opposed to “stock,” which also increases complexity when cross-brand product bundles are required. This year we’ll see new packaging options and solutions to improve this important and growing drive to standardize packaging containers to handle shipping, as well processes to streamline distribution and enable cross-brand bundling.
  • Prioritizing food safety and the reduction of food waste with new packaging technologies and processes – Global food waste is a growing concern among consumers which businesses continue to address, while cross-industry groups and influencers are leading initiatives across countries in order to improve food safety and reduce food waste. One critical area of focus is consumer education, and ensuring that those who sell and those who consume packaged food products understand their shelf life. In order to bridge the gap in communication, not only has new processing and packaging technology been developed to actually extend the shelf life of food, but technology built into packaging via freshness sensors will alert customers/ consumers regarding the shelf life of their food and when it is safe to consume in order to avoid early disposal and excessive purchasing.
  • Commercialization of packaging innovations – As new more advanced and sustainably sourced and processed materials emerge, more industries will have the opportunity to bring clean label packaging to market. Examples include high pressure packaging technology, more replacement material coming to the market, active/ digital packaging and 3D printing. We’ll see strides in pharmaceutical packaging by way of traceability and tamper-alerts, as well as monitoring capabilities to ensure patient accountability. Through 3D printing, we’ll see increased commercialization in tooling and manufacturing, moving beyond the already present prototypes – significantly cutting cost and saving time. Brand owners will begin collaborating more with new technology providers to evaluate improvements to their bottom line. Organizations will practice a more flexible model use of resources, essentially not needing to have all of that technology in house, but collaborate with partners who own this area.
  • Holistic packaging becoming the “new normal” – Product and packaging integration has been at the forefront of many conceptual conversations in the industry for a few years now. As the holistic approach to packaging design becomes more and more relevant across different silos of a business, realizing its relevance from end-to-end, we will begin to see more application of holistic packaging design principles ensuring its consideration at the earliest product development stages rather than just concept discussion. New advances in packaging materials design as well as equipment and processing technologies has allowed more application to come to market, as well as a greater understanding of the need for fully integrated communication across value chain from marketing, branding, packaging, etc. to drive a singular goal.

“As regional goals become global initiatives, and innovative ideas become technological advancements, packaging will continue to evolve as a holistic partner and leader in the supply chain,” said Phil McKiernan, Vice President of Packaging at HAVI. “We’ve seen new challenges arise and efficient and innovative solutions follow. The millions of new consumers coming into the market and rapid growth in emerging, developing and global markets will continue to force the hand of industries and companies and we will continue to collectively rise to the occasion to address the needs where support is required.”

Pursuing the application of trends across customer industries, HAVI packaging specialists are working closely with industry partners, leaders and innovators to move concept to action. In 2016, HAVI led a sponsored conference with the industries top innovators, leaders and disruptors to explore and define the future of packaging and growth for companies across the supply chain. Being able to evaluate, debate and investigate current and future industry trends and global proposals among leaders, HAVI and its partners are able to stay ahead of identified movement rather than fads, and best approach technologies, models and applications across the value chain.