What To Watch

Sustainable, Premium, and Tech-Driven

the latest material trends in packaging design

Tina Hamilton
Sr. Designer

June 8, 2023

We’re naturally biased, but it’s no secret that packaging design is an essential aspect of modern branding and marketing. Innovative packaging designs are often the key factor that sets a product apart from its competitors: 72% of American consumers say their purchasing decisions are heavily influenced by the packaging design of the products they buy (or don’t buy).

As packaging experts and enthusiasts, we always have an eye out for exciting material and design trends to help our clients’ brands stay relevant. Here are five to watch right now.

01. Sustainable Packaging Materials

Environmental concerns aren’t going anywhere. Many consumers have begun to reject plastic (and even see it as outdated) in favor of more sustainable materials, such as biodegradable plastics, recycled paper, bamboo, metal, glass, or pulp—eco-friendly options that send a stronger message of corporate responsibility and concern for the environment. The fact is, sustainability really cannot be considered a trend anymore, but a global necessity.

How can you make sustainability ownable for your brand? Identify what your organization does differently and express it through your branding, as Seedlip has done. It’s important not to “green wash,” but to really commit to a level of environmental consciousness to be considered authentic and trustworthy.

Seedlip

As an expression of its brand ethos, Seedlip is committed to sustainable packaging.

www.seedlipdrinks.com

02. Minimal and Eco-Friendly Packaging Materials

Minimalist packaging designs are becoming increasingly popular, with many brands opting for simple, clean designs that dramatically stand out on the shelves. Minimalist packaging is often made from eco-friendly materials as well, like recycled paper or biodegradable plastics. These materials are not only better for the environment, but they can impart a fresh, modern feel to the products they house.

Long a signal for “healthy” and “natural,” muted color palettes often comprise the branding for organic foods. If these attributes apply to your brand, consider the strong feelings around trust and honesty that color can evoke.

Backyard Farms

This die-cut package for tomatoes eliminates plastic and connotes a “natural” feeling.

www.backyardfarms.com

03. Skip Transparent Packaging Materials

Current market research reveals that clear packages and windows are becoming less desirable. In 2020, Frontier Psychology showed that there were no statistical differences between responses to “transparent” and “graphic” stimuli, suggesting that both can efficiently increase product attractiveness and purchase intention. But transparent packaging leaves less room to influence purchase with brand and product story, graphics, and messaging.

Brands are taking back valuable space on pack to tell compelling stories and finding that it does attract consumers’ attention and can serve as a purchase driver. Many understand that while windows offer a behind-the-scenes product view, those packages are also likely engineered in a way that inherently limits environmental friendliness. Brands are listening to consumers and making commitments to redesign packaging to be more sustainable. CPG giants like Mars are redesigning packaging for better circularity by removing mixed substrates, while other brands have been forced to redesign their packaging due to supply chain disruption.

Barilla

Barilla is making a statement about transparency on the front of its packaging.

www.barilla.com

04. Luxury Packaging Materials

Packaging design is not only about practicality, but also about conveying “premiumness” and exclusivity. Luxury packaging materials like velvet, satin, and gold foiling add a touch of elegance and sophistication to a product, and can deliver on brand equity if your brand is known for these characteristics. Luxury materials are particularly popular in high-end beauty and fashion products; next time you’re shopping, take a look and see what you find.

05. High-Tech Materials

Emerging high-tech materials are becoming more accessible to designers, opening up a new world of possibilities for packaging design. Smart materials like thermochromic ink that changes color with product temperature or NFC-enabled packaging that interacts with a smartphone can create a more interactive and engaging packaging experience. Consider Hilight—printed electronics™, the world’s first illuminated packaging based on electroluminescence. Used for Bacardi’s “Bombay Sapphire” product, the packaging is designed to light up as soon as the buyer takes it off the shelf.

Bombay Sapphire

This Bombay Sapphire packaging is designed to light up when a consumer picks it up.

www.bombaysapphire.com

“We want the consumer to say ‘wow’ when a package changes color to confirm the beverage is icy cold, or an image or code appears in sunlight or the dark,” explains Patrick Edson, Chief Marketing Officer at Chromatic Technologies Inc, supplier of thermochromic ink. “When this is done well, brands drive increased purchase intent and secure additional retail support.”

Coca-Cola

Enabled with thermochromic ink, the ice on this can of Coca-Cola changes color to indicate product temperature.

www.coca-cola.com

Let The Consumer Drive Your Packaging Material Choices

Each packaging material trend has its own advantages and disadvantages. As brand stewards, designers, and marketers, we must make sure to understand our clients’ needs, their target audiences, and their products’ overall brand equity when choosing materials for packaging design. By staying on top of the latest trends, we can create innovative, sustainable, and engaging packaging designs that resonate with consumers.