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Four Packaging Innovations Driven by Consumer Trends

October 19, 2017

Irrelevance is the most dangerous future a business can face. Often the result of unmet consumer demands and ignored trends, it is the death knell of a company. Just ask many of the "leading" companies that have ceased to exist in the last decade. Industry and consumer trends are useless if those findings are not integrated into the business strategy.  

Information on trends helps companies better understand their consumers and manage expectations from the marketplace. When we better understand the consumer trends driving innovation and act on them, we position our businesses to capitalize on them – and stay relevant.

Finding Packaging Innovation in Consumer Trends 

In a recent webinar on consumer trends driving packaging innovation, Martin Johnson, Senior Director of Technology at Jabil Packaging Solutions, and Toriono Granger, Managing Director at Radius, explored digitization, sustainability, e-commerce and global urbanization, among other trends impacting companies serving today's consumers. 

They highlighted the importance of finding ways to meld trend insights and drivers to support innovation in packaging . Here are four packaging innovations driven by consumer trends:

1. Smart Packaging  

Customer-centric brand marketing holds the key to creating and sustaining long-lasting product value. There’s little arguing about what happens when companies know how to solve customers’ problems– they earn greater brand loyalty and broader market share. That’s why every consumer product goods (CPG) maker across every conceivable industry segment focuses on optimizing customer experiences, starting with product packaging. Digitization, experience seekers and a growing base of tech-savvy consumers who are willing to engage with companies on a digital level are driving this packaging innovation.

What is Smart Packaging? Also known as active packaging or intelligent packaging, smart packaging refers to solutions with two-level interaction for greater consumer engagement through the use of digital technologies. 

Traditional product brands and startups both have the opportunity to take advantage of smart packaging for differentiated offerings, loyalty and rich streams of consumer data that can lead to entirely new business models.  

The ability to align brands more closely and constantly with consumer lifestyles, smart devices and the Internet of Things is transforming how customers choose and interact with consumer devices, consumer packaged goods (CPG), consumer healthcare products as well as food and beverages.     

Think about baby formula, for instance. In response to consumers' need for safety and authenticity, baby formula producers are looking to smart labels, which can sense first opening and provide information to consumers and companies about authenticity, integrity and freshness. In this data exchange, consumers can use the product knowing that it is safe to do so, while the producers could track information such as the time between purchase and consumption, getting better insight into consumer behaviors.   

2. Sustainable Packaging 

As discussions about the environmental impact we make as a society come into question, consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious, which require new packaging innovations. The adoption of sustainable packaging requires a holistic approach. Opportunities must be found to connect people, places and partnerships to make positive impacts on society and the environment while overcoming myriad challenges. Historically, plastics were based on non-renewal resources, so they didn’t convert or breakdown to basic molecules. The broad variations of resin types used also created numerous separation and recycling impediments.  

To overcome these barriers and drive sustainable packaging innovations, industry stakeholders must unite in advancing design improvements that increase the use of recyclable and compostable materials. Equally important is encouraging greater investment in reprocessing technologies that can forever change how plastic packaging is designed, made and re-used. 

Organizations of all sizes can put circular economy principles to work and they can start by rethinking the design and development of products and packaging so they can be recycled or repurposed easily and affordably.  

A leader in specialty coffee and innovative, single-service brewing systems, Keurig Green Mountain (Keurig) is committed to delivering exceptional coffee as well as using the power of business to build resilient supply chains, sustainable products and thriving communities. To that end, the company has pledged to make 100 percent of its iconic K-Cup® pods recyclable by 2020.  

Keurig applies a robust practice of lifecycle analysis to its products to understand the impact of end-of-life or changes in materials on the environment. While end-of-life impacts are relatively minor in measuring the company’s overall greenhouse gas footprint, Keurig wanted to improve consumers’ experiences and its product sustainability by increasing the recyclability of the K-Cup pod.  

To accomplish that, the K-Cup pod design was revised to deliver broader recycling opportunities. The company also changed pod material to polypropylene #5 plastic as it was widely accepted by U.S. and Canadian recyclers. The new recyclable format was introduced in a market-test in 2016 that maintained the same size, functionality, and quality of the original K-Cup pod. 

3. e-Commerce Packaging 

Consumers are increasingly willing to shop on alternative channels outside of the physical brick-and-mortar stores. Today it's hard to remember the days before Amazon, Paypal and SSL encryption. The e-commerce phenomenon has ushered in an extreme shift in consumer experience over the past two decades. Although it started with easily shippable objects including books, CDs and DVDs, it is now possible to buy almost anything you can think of – from razors to Riesling – while sitting in front of a screen. 

Brands and their packaging partners are in the midst of a significant transition away from a world where packages primarily sit on store shelves waiting to entice potential buyers to one where packages sit in warehouses awaiting a “ready to buy” webpage click. This requires a different type of packaging innovation to meet e-commerce needs.  

As a result, the brand and packaging professionals responsible for the final product must evolve their e-commerce packaging solutions to support the new retail reality. Adapting to a whole new world of e-commerce potentially means shipping considerations and device-to-consumer platforms designed to support repeat purchases to a wide variety of new technologies, innovations and bottling options. 

When detergent pods were introduced into the market a few years prior, they took the industry by storm – entering a market with 100 percent penetration and increasing customer dissatisfaction levels. It was risky, but the right move to make for P&G.  

In 2016, the company trialed an online, direct-to-consumer, subscription business for its Tide Pods: Tide Wash Club. The model was to offer free shipping on Tide Pods and deliver them to the consumer at regular intervals. Since the formula of the product in the pods have significantly less water than the liquid form, they are lighter. The design also makes them less prone to breakage and leakage during shipping.  

4. Devicification 

Devicification (device-ification) is the opportunity to create a physical packaging platform that interlocks with smart devices. The physical platform may have various benefits such as smart materials that extend shelf life. It could also utilize the Internet of Things (IoT) as a means of communicating with a mobile device or computer, with most of the intelligence built into a smart device.   

Devicification offers convenience that elevates the consumer experience. The capabilities of existing devices like coffee makers, paper towel dispensers and water filters can be amplified with connected solutions.  

Jabil's patent-pending smart auto-replenishment system, announced during Interpack 2017, combines a consumable with a connected device with embedded sensing capabilities to measure usage and remaining volume. Taking advantage of a consumer's affinity for convenience, usage thresholds can trigger automated workflows, such as reordering notifications or special purchase offers. Imagine never having to worry about how much coffee you have left at home. Sounds like a dream, doesn't it? 

Opportunities for packaging innovation can be driven by shifts in consumer behavior and interests, as well as other macro trends in the marketplace. But true innovation comes from the intersection of people (desirability + usability), technical feasibility and business viability.   

Join Martin Johnson from Jabil Packaging Solutions and Toriono Granger from Radius Innovation and Development to understand the technological trends taking place within the plastic packaging industry and explore the processes that are the sweet spot of innovation for your brand. 

Packaging of the Future Webinar Series Part 2: Packaging Innovations of the Future