2019 seemed to be the year of refining. Be it ecommerce campaigns, seasonal packaging or moving into a new sector, consumer packaged goods companies, manufacturers and designers worked with what they had and made it better. As well, many joined an international company to focus on a recycling program. Instead of rolling out new products with unique flavors for consumers, we noticed a lean toward what they truly want. And it seems to be working.

Here, we list the trends from last year that will continue to grow in the foreseeable future.

Renewed Recycling

Not new by any means, TerraCycle, the international recycling platform, offers free recycling programs that are funded by brands, manufacturers and retailers around the world. The participation grew immensely this year, with the goal to help consumers collect and recycle hard-to-recycle waste — such as stuck-on labels, single-use plastics, industrial waste and more. Consumers choose a program, start collecting the waste and download free shipping labels. They then send TerraCycle the waste to be recycled.

TerraCycle reuses, upcycles and recycles waste so it moves from a linear system to a circular one. To date, over 202 million people in 21 countries have collected and recycled enough waste to raise over $44 million for charities.

“As a response to the global challenge in managing waste and the opportunity to improve consumers’ experience, a group of global brands, retailers and infrastructure companies, along with the World Economic Forum, have come together to create a new way to more responsibly consume products.” says TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky.

From Procter & Gamble brands Tide, Cascade, Herbal Essences and Gillette to Swiffer, Aptar, PepsiCo and Walmart, many jumped on the bandwagon last year to join forces with the recycling company, which includes the Loop system.

Gerber started a baby food recycling program, while Walmart went large — partnering on a car seat program for 4,000 of its stores. Tide created an EcoBox, cutting down on its rigid plastic bottles being used for laundry detergent. And Herbal Essences created shampoo and conditioner bottles made with 25% beach plastic.

“Loop will not just eliminate the idea of packaging waste, but greatly improve the product experience and the convenience in how we shop. Through Loop, consumers can now responsibly consume products in specially designed durable, reusable or fully recyclable packaging made from materials like alloys, glass and engineered plastics. When a consumer returns the packaging, it is refilled or the content is reused or recycled through groundbreaking technology,” said Szaky in a Packaging Strategies podcast in January 2019.

Material Advances

Packaging materials saw some noteworthy changes in 2019. Suppliers worked with multilayer films in order to try out new layers with a recyclable advantage.

TC Transcontinental created a multilayer recyclable pouch with barrier that still protects the flavor and the freshness of the product inside. The company collaborated with Dow and Charter NEX Films to develop one of the first commercialized package for food that is 100% recycle ready for in-store drop off and has an EVOH barrier for product preservation, seal strength and durability.

The first use was with master tea blenders Harney & Sons for its loose tea. The challenge with barrier films is that it is not easily broken down and recycled. Dow’s RETAIN™ resin technology provided a solution by compatibilizing the barrier, allowing for a multilayer film to be fully recyclable and attain sustainability goals.

Another film manufacturer, Innovia Films, and German snack manufacturer Wildcorn have worked together to pro-
duce a fully recyclable and sustainable pack for its Wildcorn organic popcorn range. The joint project to establish a new sustainable packaging standard began soon after the launch of Innovia’s Propafilm™ Strata high barrier film. To make the Wildcorn pack, a lamination of Propafilm Strata and a white cavitated OPP was used. This construction was also tested by Interseroh, which confirmed that it was fully recyclable, awarding the pack the ‘Made for Recycling’ certification.

Another area seeing change is labels, with a nod toward recyclability. In order to allow a fully recyclable container without the sticky adhesive, Nestlé Chile’s yogurt pot now sports a removable label manufactured by Emsur Argentina. The label can be pulled off the pot without leaving any residue, making it easier to recycle. Emsur partnered up with Coexpan Chile to develop the removable banderole for dairy products for the brand. The unique feature of the banderole is its releasing layer that enables users to remove the label without tearing the paper so it is easier to separate it from the container, thus contributing to the recyclability of plastics.

HERMA came up with a wash-off label adhesive. The adhesive for labels 62Rpw, (which HERMA will shortly be introducing), will allow recycling operators to produce high-purity PET pellets that do not contain any detrimental residues — no remains of paper or film labels, and no residual adhesive. Even when used with film labels, it achieves a 100% wash-off score. The focus has been on PET beverage bottles, detergent bottles, soap dispensers and cans for food and cosmetics. The HERMA adhesive offers the attributes of reliable adhesion and good resistance to the effects of moisture. Regular industrial cleaning processes are nonetheless capable of removing it without a trace.

Released last year, KeelClip™, by Graphic Packaging International (GPI), is a solution for cans that consists of minimal recyclable paperboard material that clings on top and wedges between can multipacks, and has finger holes on top. KeelClip works on a wide range of can styles and sizes, and in multiple product configurations.

Anheuser Busch InBev was one of the first to commercialize KeelClip. Beginning in March, the Budweiser brewer will have brands in the U.K. market, such as Bud Light, packaged withthe new KeelClip. Another beverage giant, Coca-Cola and bottling partners Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company and Coca-Cola European Partners, are also using the KeelClip.

Aluminum Grows in Beverage Sector

Moving from rigid plastic bottles to aluminum cans in the beverage sector was another important change. Water brand SOURCE chose cans for its Llanllyr sparkling and still water. The brand has stopped producing plastic packaging across its range and anticipates that all plastic will be out of distribution by the end of the year.

Cannedwaterforkids.org (CW4K) packages its water in aluminum bottles and cans as a replacement for minimally recyclable plastic water bottles. The brand’s mission is for kids around the world to have clean, fresh drinking water.

PepsiCo announced last year that its AQUAFINA water brand will offer aluminum can packaging in U.S. food service outlets, and the brand was expected to test the move in retail this year.

KinsBrae Packaging Inc. introduced the PortaVino aluminum wine bottle last October. The PortaVino is a personal size, resealable aluminum bottle designed specifically for wine. With its elegant silhouette and convenient 250 ml volume, the bottle provides versatility for on-the-go lifestyles of today’s wine drinkers — easily slipping into a bag or backpack for an outing or for casual entertaining at home.

Ecommerce and Subscription Services

Another area of innovation is ecommerce. Many retailers are realizing the need for an online platform — and the possibility of sales that comes with it. Knowing how to set up a product photo for the web (the hot thing is 360-degree photography) is a must. Google has started serving more image results for all kinds of searches. And, using 360-degree images lets shoppers know what to expect.

Since adding 360-degree images to the Tricor Braun website, there has been a significant increase in web traffic and online sales. That’s likely because about 27% of all Google searches in 2017 were specifically for image results, the company stated.

With 45% average growth rates each of the past three years, online grocery sales in 2019 reached $2.9 billion in sales, according to Nielsen. The fastest growing food brand online? Private label, as retailers are increasingly listing their private label lines first for prominent search results — unless a brand pays for higher placement.

The platform growing the most is click-and-collect services, with one-quarter of all grocery sales, stated the Nielsen report. The basket composition varies according to fulfillment method, so cross-promotion, website design and marketing to shoppers need to adjust.

Chris Lowery, CEO of Chase Design Group, forecasts no slowdown for 2020 either. “As ecommerce continues to grow and thrive, e-carts are becoming key. Voice ordering is more and more common, and often results in consumers ordering more private label products because they did not search by brand name. Brand leaders will move to improve their positions in voice search results. One sure fire way to safeguard sales is with subscriptions,” he said.

Take Coca-Cola Company’s new subscription service, just announced in December. The beverage giant sold 1,000 subscriptions in just three hours, giving fans the opportunity to taste some of 20-plus new drinks launching in early 2020. The Coca-Cola Insiders Club promises monthly surprises and swag, in addition to three category-spanning beverages — from AHA flavored sparkling water to Coke Energy.

And don’t forget pet sub boxes. From dogs and cats to horses, pet lovers can subscribe to a one-time or multi-month box with gifts for the pampered pet. Many products are packaged — treats, toys and grooming tools. Consumer spending on their pets isn’t slowing, and it is a great opportunity to partner with a subscription service.

Experiential Campaigns

Experiential marketing is key to bringing your brand to life, says Corey Gustafson, president of custom packaging and print solutions provider JohnsByrne. “By exploring dimensions that aren’t possible in standard packaging, you can truly display your brand’s ethos with experiential marketing and packaging.”

This can be done in a variety of ways — from incorporating multiple senses into your packaging to putting together an immersive one-of-a-kind experiential product launch. Packaging essentially is an element of an overall experiential marketing campaign. By incorporating and emphasizing unique, experience-driven packaging in your experiential marketing campaign you’ll get results, like the following companies.

Lay’s potato chips, the main brand of Frito-Lay, kicked off its second Smile campaign last summer to benefit Operation Smile. In the inaugural year, the “Smiles” packaging, in conjunction with a $1 million commitment to Operation Smile, surpassed expectations with customer feedback and social engagement to prompt the campaign’s return in 2019 — with the addition of real people on the selfie-inspiring bags.

For its third year, the chip brand is resolving to create more smiles in 2020. Lay’s will turn over the power of its bags to star ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to create joy in their communities. And as Lay’s kicks off its nationwide search, the brand introduced three new chip flavors across its entire portfolio in January: Lay’s Cheddar Jalapeño, Lay’s Poppables Sea Salt & Vinegar and Lay’s Kettle Cooked Flamin’ Hot. It’s an entire campaign with a special website, social media and advertising — all grabbing the attention of consumers. The custom-designed bags will be on store shelves this fall. 

Seasonal and limited edition packaging has seen an uptick in adding small gifts or other surprises in addition to the product purchased. The personal care sector is notorious for this, as are liquor brands. For the holidays in 2018, Crown Royal partnered with Supremia on a gift box for its Deluxe Whisky. Supremia created unique gold-printed glasses representing 44 states in the U.S. for the box. The research by Supremia included a poll, and more to bring out the best for the gift pack. Supremia created the 10.5 oz. glass size and each logo design on the glasses. Each was decorated with organic gold silkscreen of a state outline and Crown Royal logo.

This past holiday season, Aldi markets worked with print specialist Esko on designing new holiday shopping bags. A combination of crystal screen technology, and the latest innovation in digital flexo delivered superior print quality to the bags. Esko’s Print Control Wizard software was combined with the innovative Crystal XPS LED Exposure System to deliver outstanding final results when Brandpack, a division of Graphic Packaging International Australia, produced the premier McDermid LUX ITP 60 flat-top dot plates. The high-quality run was completed by Andrew Kohn Pty, a leading specialist supplier of custom packaging.

Our March issue will include the annual PACKAGING OUTLOOK, with forecasts on materials and machinery. We’ll share the opportunities and challenges for the foreseeable future.