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Philip VanDusen
Executive Creative Director,
based in Landor Cincinnati


Anne Reid
Senior Director, Design Realization,
based in Landor Cincinnati

Trend four: Future of packaging

December 12, 2012

Single-servings and on-the-go packaging

Philip: As our culture becomes more and more mobile, packaging trends need to stay ahead of our lifestyle changes. I heard recently that 20 percent of meals in the United States are eaten in the car, so packaging structures are going to need to take advantage of that and be mobile, easy to handle in the car, and in portions for being on the go. A great example of that is Oscar Mayer’s Lunchables.

There's also been a huge explosion of snack bars, which are the ultimate portable food that you just throw in your pocket or your handbag. Just about everyone is doing a snack bar now from Kellogg’s to high-end bars from Kind, Nature Valley, Be Natural, etc. That aisle in the grocery store used to be only a foot or so and now it’s probably nine or 12 feet long. The snack bar category has been exploding.

There are also a lot more single and smaller households in the United States. Twenty-seven percent of households in this country are single-person households and packaging must address single-serving as well as easy-to-prepare meals for a person living alone.

Anne: A great example of that would be Hormel Compleats, which is a new kind of food we're seeing. The new evolution of the old TV dinner is a shelf-stable package that doesn't need to be frozen. You can take it anywhere. You can keep it in your bag all day at work or you can take it with you on the go and just microwave it for a couple of minutes; it's even quicker than a frozen meal.

Philip: Also meals like Ready Pac salads. Or Safeway Signature Cafe chef-prepared meals, which are prepared by a chef in the Safeway store and you take them home and reheat them, but they’re fresh meals and not shelf-stable. We’re also seeing a lot of single-size items being developed; single-serving sizes have been common in developing countries for a while, and now we’re seeing them for sale more in other countries. Because of the recession people don’t have as much to spend and they want to control the portions of what they’re using, whether it’s single servings of toothpaste or Tide Pods.

Anne: Right. With Tide Pods you're not doing an extensive pour of liquid; you’re just using one single amount for your load of laundry. Additionally, the packages are greener because they’re smaller, more condensed. And they’re not using resin. I think everyone is freaked-out about plastic bottles; I think that's definitely another trend that is happening.

Philip: We’re seeing also a lot of ergonomic structures. A great example of that is this roll-up water bottle: collapsible water bottles that are saving volume in terms of shipping; definitely more green, definitely addressing the mobile demographic.

Sensory packaging

Anne: The second trend is about engaging consumers with your packaging in-store. With the advent of digital and online purchasing, I think people are just used to getting things in the mail, and the package is a secondary consideration. But when people are actually shopping in the store I think they want something that is more interesting and engaging.

There are sensory products like Crest toothpaste; it has a scratch-and-sniff to show you the varieties of flavors available. Downy Unstopables has a cool feature where they have little holes punctured in the lid and you can squeeze the package and it releases the scent; Downy Unstopables is a new product that is all about scent—the packaging helps consumers engage with that and understand what Downy is trying to communicate.

Another sensory trend is tactility. There are a lot of printers doing new techniques with raised varnishes and sparkle varnishes and different elements that can provide a tactile experience when you interact with the package. A good example is Skyy vodka's holiday package for this year, limited edition. It has velvet flocking on the outside of it.

Unique packaging and personalization

Philip: Another trend we’re seeing is a new level of originality and personalization. Absolut vodka actually just did the first package where they had to completely retool their production line so they could make every bottle absolutely unique. The line was called Absolut Unique, and every bottle is completely different—a different abstract painting on every bottle.

We're also seeing in packaging the ability to personalize your experience with the product. MiO is a great example of that—you can add as little or as much as you like to make your beverage exactly what you want it to be.

Anne: Or you can combine it together or mix and match and do crazy flavors made of multiple versions. I think this is a great trend in itself. This is a new product, it’s a new category, and now it’s being duplicated, but MiO really originated the concept of the liquid water enhancer. It's portable, and it's really taken off.

Sustainable packaging

Anne: The next continuing trend is green packaging. I think consumers are expecting green packaging more and more from the products that they’re buying, and they want to know about recycling and recycled quantity in the package. I think that Method has got this new dish-and-hand product whose bottle is actually made out of reclaimed plastic from the oceans; that's a really unique thing, and consumers find that engaging.

We talked about stand-up, resealable pouches—the Tide Pod, for example. Capri Sun is now in a stand-up pouch. These are just more ecologically sound from a shipping standpoint. When they’re shipping the empty packages they take up a lot less space. Additionally, most of them are recyclable. I think consumers are responding to that; more and more products are in those packages.


Anne: The next trend is bioresins. Nature Fusion from Pantene is using 30 percent bioresin in their bottles. The bioresin war was started between Coke and Pepsi. Coke was first out with plant bottles, but Pepsi was the first to come out with a 100 percent bioresin bottle. They are looking to get to a bioresin that is made more with waste materials from food processing so there won't be any farming or agricultural implications of growing the material to make the bottles. Additionally, I have heard that they're trying to make bottles out of chicken feathers!

What are the implications of these trends for brands?

Philip: Just to review, one of the main implications is we want to make sure brands stay abreast of demographic and macro social evolutions in culture, so they can address those changes both in their packaging and their products. Another is, as we go more and more digital in our lives, to make sure we are not only capitalizing on the visual and auditory aspects of branding, but also in terms of smell, taste, and touch—those things that can happen at the first moment of truth on the shelf.

Anne: Staying with the theme of personalization, make sure that you're in tune with your consumers, react to feedback from consumers, and give them what they're really looking for. Then look at the new normal, at economic realities like smaller households, portable sizes, and portable products so people can eat on the go. And be nimble in your innovation, especially when it applies to green products, new materials, and new structures for your packaging.



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