Sustainable Packaging Trends
Consumers’ views on packaging are changing. Packaging is no longer seen as “essential waste,” but instead an opportunity for brands to improve their relationship with the environment and the consumers they serve. This shift has had a dramatic impact on the consumer goods marketplace in recent years. Sustainability is becoming an expectation for leading brands and there is often backlash when brands fall short of their environmental promise. This has resulted in package design becoming a powerful product feature, sometimes as essential as the product itself.
Companies are embracing these packaging design trends to reduce their footprint and prove their sustainability commitments to consumers:
Post-Consumer Recycled Content
Recycled packaging continues to grow in popularity. You will find many brands that use post-consumer recycled (PCR) content in their sustainability initiatives, but some are now taking this to the next level. Newton is a running shoe manufacturer who saw the importance of embracing sustainability. Newton created a shoebox made entirely of recycled pulp. They molded the unsightly recycled pulp around their shoes to make for a cool and unique box. The consumer marketplace saw this as a selling point, and it made for a successful marketing strategy.
Bare Minimum Packaging
Reducing packaging components or “minimizing” can be a powerful design strategy that improves user experience. Amazon has found that reducing packaging can actually add value to the consumer experience. Customers now have the option to choose “frustration-free packaging” when selecting a shipping method. Frustration-free packaging helps reduce waste by shipping a product with the least amount of packaging possible required to get from point A to point B successfully. This has been a big hit for Amazon customers and for the company as a whole. Since the start of this program, Amazon has certified over 200,000 items that are available to ship frustration-free.
Lightweighting Packaging Systems
2016 saw some dominant brands make major strides towards light-weighting their packaging. Light weighting is a technique that focuses on decreasing packaging weight, reduced material usage, and lower costs throughout the supply chain. One company that has used this technique very effectively is Coca-Cola. Here are some of the strategies that Coca-Cola has used to lightweight package designs:
- Trimmed the weight of 20-ounce PET plastic bottle by more than 25 percent
- Shaved 30 percent from the weight of 12-ounce aluminum cans
- Lightened 8-ounce glass bottles by more than 50 percent
When exploring light-weighting options, it is important to remember to balance the environmental impact with the consumer experience of the packaging.
Data-Driven Package Design
Increasingly, companies are using science to back up their sustainable design initiatives. Life cycle assessment or LCA can be an essential eco-innovation technique that can identify “hotspots” or areas that a company may want to focus on to improve the environmental standing of their packages. Some companies are developing internal tools to do this job for them, but this is often cumbersome and expensive. LCA applications like Trayak’s COMPASS, which has been endorsed by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, provide material guidance during the design phase so product engineers can optimize packages for sustainability.