It used to be simple. You knew your brand’s positioning, and packaging was about creating a sleek logomark, memorable design or cool marketing message to connect with consumers. You could operate in a brand ‘silo’ and continue with business as usual.

That’s no longer the case. Modern consumers are savvy and the more they focus on living better, healthier lives and taking steps to save the planet, the more crucial it is for you to focus on your brand’s ‘better-for-you’ attributes. That means you now also have to take into consideration your industry at large and the broader impact of your product, including its ingredients, how it’s made and most importantly, the packaging it comes in.

It sounds aspirational, and it is. By helping companies in all sectors — from major brands to start-ups — to successfully launch new products or refresh tired ones, I’ve seen clients latch onto disruptive packaging ideas with excellent results. Here are the top five packaging innovations that will continue to transform brands across all industries in 2020 and beyond.

Elevated sustainability: From zero waste and edible wrappers, to biodegradable plastics and compostable materials, there’s a growing focus on packaging that’s good for the environment. What’s new for 2020 is an emphasis on elevating both the look and message of sustainable packaging. As the cost of eco-friendly materials — such as soy-based inks and edible rice elements — continues to come down, we’re going to see more innovative, earth-friendly designs, like colorful, biodegradable stand-up pouches for pet foods or striking 100% recyclable milk cartons that you’d never guess were made of raw cardboard from pulp trees. It sounds futuristic, but an era when you can ‘have your food and eat the wrapper too’ is just around the corner as more companies experiment with bold new edible packages made from natural potato, rice paper, seaweed, wax-coated sugar and tomato-based materials. 

Transparent transparency: Brand transparency will be increasingly critical and we’re starting to see the trend show up in packaging, with more companies removing the guesswork about what’s inside their products by choosing clear or translucent materials on the outside. Traditional boxed food packaging for many brands, including pastas, cookies and biscuits, is being reinvented with clear cut-outs so consumers actually see the product, while cosmetics, shampoos and lotions are appearing in minimalistic see-through containers. Another approach, successfully used by a leading whole food protein bar, is to simply list food ingredients in large font on the front of a package, enabling consumers to quickly identify the product as a healthy choice.

Simple, bright and sophisticated: Bold colors, big type and one-word brand names anchored by catchy, to-the-point slogans will increase in popularity in 2020 as consumers gravitate toward minimalistic, yet sophisticated packaging. Brands will stay on the path of strong uncluttered messaging and quick reads that are easily understood by busy, time constrained consumers. Bold serif typography in logomark design — once considered a design industry taboo — is making a comeback as a way to catch consumers’ eyes and deliver a loud, strong message.

Unified expression: Consumers are choosing products that match their lifestyle and dietary choices, and it comes down to a matter of trusting your brand. The best way to build that trust is by defining a brand territory and ensuring it shows up in all brand assets, starting with packaging. Maple Hill, a leading producer of grass-fed, organic dairy products, is enjoying exponential growth after rebranding its product line, incorporating a bed of meadow grasses across all product SKUs to underscore its ‘grassfed’ message. A first-of-its-kind, sleep-friendly ice cream brand is building a loyal following by imparting a unified expression across its line, sending a clear message that it’s OK to give in to nighttime cravings. The company’s packaging includes a series of custom-illustrated, lovable characters, one for each unique ice cream flavor, that echoes the same message and ensures the brand story is both recognizable and consistent.

Disruptive concepts: 2020 promises to be a game-changing year, as packaging that has historically been frowned on is flipped on its head to change the conversation, and in some cases, start a revolution on store shelves. We’re already seeing the medical marijuana consumer experience elevated as traditional, bland nug jars are replaced by beautiful glass orbs and stylized packaging. A similar trend is underway with leafy garden greens as companies look to replace plastic blister packs with sustainable packaging. Innovative concepts are combining unique uses of paper with bright colors and exciting logomarks, completely transforming the way greens are presented in grocery stores. The more you aspire to elevate your brand, the more you start to change the playing field of an entire industry. 

Josh White, principal and creative director of NYC-based brand and design agency OffWhite Co., provided the information for this section. Visit

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