New Frontiers in Packaging Technology

August 2020

Coronavirus is a game changer for packaging. The pandemic has rendered safety and hygiene key considerations for consumers who will be receptive to active packaging that helps avoid food waste and anti-pathogenic solutions to reduce contamination. More sustainable packaging and recovery systems such as recycling, renewable materials and returnable models are an inevitable transformation. So is e-commerce, which commands new shockproof designs and a compelling shopping and unboxing experience.

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Key Findings

COVID-19 restores some faith in packaging among consumers

With COVID-19, packaging’s core functions of product protection and preservation have gained value in the eye of the consumer who suddenly worries about viral contamination and access to retail. Despite some tangible challenges - not least a vast and complex quest for sustainability and increasing recessionary conditions - the forecast period offers real opportunities for technological advances in packaging to meet changing consumer demands and to ultimately create social, environmental and economic value.

Greater concerns over viral contamination spur technological advances in packaging safety and hygiene

The COVID-19 pandemic has rendered safety and hygiene more vital to consumers around the globe. New coatings and active packaging show promise in prolonging the shelf life of fresh foods. Anti-pathogenic packaging especially for foods, and touchless solutions in beauty, are other areas of future development.

Pandemic renders sustainability an unavoidable goal in new packaging developments

Concerns over packaging’s environmental impact may have taken a backseat with the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak; but the endeavour to “close the loop” is here to stay. Increasing the recyclability of hard-to-recycle packaging is among the key routes of innovation. Decreasing virgin plastics usage with renewable materials offers potential, but adopting returnable models presents particularly strong sustainability benefits.

Soaring e-commerce calls for smart packaging solutions that offer higher protection and a wow factor

COVID-19 has accelerated the shift towards digital living and e-commerce. With this transition comes demand for pack innovations that enable faster delivery and better content protection from shock or temperature variations. Opportunities to convey indulgence, excitement through the unboxing experience and “Instagram appeal” will be particularly valuable in foods and beauty.


Key findings

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Packaging Innovation

COVID-19 impact: food and hygiene products more resilient than drinks
COVID-19 causes subtle, positive change in consumer perception
Surge in single-use plastics but no turning back in pack sustainability quest
Consumers increasingly live with - and expect - technology
Three ways in which packaging can serve consumers in the future

Safety and Hygiene to the Fore

Shift from loose to packaged foods for hygiene, safety and preservation
Optimising foods’ shelf life improves product hygiene and freshness
Packaging that extends food shelf life: new directions look promising
Packaging will need to meet new safety standards
Anti-pathogenic packaging innovation holds potential
“Low touch” economy to influence packaging innovation

The Sustainability Equation

Demand for more “circular” packaging; starting with recyclable materials
Despite recent improvements, recycling is still in its early days
Shopping behaviours under COVID-19 exacerbate packaging waste issue
Soaring food delivery creates packaging excess and triggers innovation
E-commerce tide pushes forward packaging-heavy food delivery models
Thailand juggles with new highs in packaging waste as food delivery soars
Innovation in more sustainable packaging for food delivery
Increasing pack recyclability: pack type switches often a rushed move
Increasing pack recyclability: mono-materials key in food packaging
Reducing virgin plastics: recycled content pushed in rigid plastic packaging
Reducing virgin plastics: bio-based appeals as it becomes more circular
Re-usable packaging a viable, long-term sustainable and economic option

The Growing Digital Challenge

Booming e-commerce calls for pack protection and personalisation
Indulgence and gifting re-invented through e-commerce packaging
Creating emotional connection and exclusivity through packaging


Outlook: packaging to maintain retail growth across industries
Three main areas of packaging innovation looking forward


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