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Packaging the future: 3 challenges faced by modern packaging designers

It’s no secret that the packaging industry is currently experiencing a significant amount of scrutiny from the UK media. The catalyst for this high-level of interest being the latest BBC series of Blue Planet, which touched the hearts and minds of consumers around the UK as well as our very own Prime Minister. With the trend rapidly gaining traction, the ensuing call to switch to environmentally responsible alternatives is now loud from all sides.

In response, most of the UK’s largest supermarkets are now signed up to the Plastic Pact, an industry-wide initiative to reduce plastic waste. This in turn is placing mounting pressure on packaging manufacturers to reconsider the materials they use and supply what the public considers to be ‘eco-friendly’ solutions instead.

It may come as a surprise to most consumers, however, that leading manufacturers throughout the industry have been focusing on sustainable plastic packaging innovation for years. So well-versed are they at considering the environmental impact of their packaging solutions that their focus is not just sustainability but how they will cater for other rapidly accelerating trends, such as the effect of digitalisation on the supply chain, alongside it.

With this in mind, we asked Mark Shaw, our New Product Development Manager at Parkside, what he considers to be the top three challenges faced by today’s packaging designers.

1. Sustainable packaging

“Sustainability is still the number one consideration. It’s gone from being a historically expensive to implement ‘nice-to-have’ to an essential, integral feature of today’s packaging solutions. It’s still up for debate whether plastic-free, recyclable, compostable or biodegradable solutions in isolation are the answer to today’s issues. And let’s face it, it’s likely to be a combination of all these things!

“One thing is for certain when it comes to sustainable packaging. Packaging designers can’t solve all these challenges alone. We need support from the government to fund new and relevant innovation and investment in recycling infrastructure to realise the full potential of recyclable and compostable solutions. Balanced consumer education is also required to create a broader understanding of what ‘sustainable’ packaging actually looks like.”

2. E-commerce packaging

“Almost 20 years ago the internet, as we now know it, didn’t exist. This meant that between the 1950s and 1990s packaging design was all about shelf standout. However, the rule book has been well and truly ripped up for today’s designers. More often than not, the first look the consumer will get at their packaging is in the isolated environment of their own home. The solution didn’t have to fight its way into the consumer’s basket in competition with its neighbouring item on a shelf. Just one click and it was on its way unchallenged.

“The real question now, is how we can design packaging that extends and enhances the brand experience. What will add value for the consumer? A wonderfully tactile finish, interactive branding or a post-product secondary function? These are all things the modern packaging designer must now consider.”

3. Omnichannel retail packaging

“For a while, e-commerce and the in-store experience were two very separate things. But today, retailers are driving a joined-up experience to build up the trust of the consumer who no longer values brand loyalty.

“Take packaging for an independent coffee brand, which may be sold in-store and online, for example. Multiple themes and features must be considered by the designer to generate a comprehensive design. Does the packaging reflect the brand’s ethos? Does it communicate in a warm, friendly and innovative way (think QR codes for augmented reality messaging)? Is it easy to use, share or eat on the go? And is it easily recyclable post-consumer use?

“The answer has to be yes to at least all the above for a pack to speak clearly to one consumer via the multiple potential purchasing opportunities now avialable. This multi-faceted approach is one that all packaging designers must implement to fully explore the brief.”

Meeting the challenges – today’s packaging solutions

The pace of change can certainly be dizzying if you stop and think about it! With so many elements to consider for today’s market it’s not surprising that brands often don’t know where to begin with new packaging development.

Parkside is experienced in working with brands of all sizes. From independent start-ups to established businesses across the UK, we can help to bring your message to life through our packaging solutions. With a wide range of designs available, from compostable to recyclable, and extensive experience in innovative flexible packaging technology, we encourage you to get in touch for assistance with your next project.