Branding efforts and packaging trends are constantly evolving. This millennium we’ve seen a specific shift toward eco-friendly packaging solutions as the global conscience has started to seriously focus on sustainability. And the past two years, we’ve also seen more of a keen awareness of packaging in terms of unique unboxing experiences (especially while everyone was stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, desperately looking for something fresh and exciting to open).
But even with eco-friendly packaging and the fun packaging experiences we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, what might be in style today won’t necessarily remain in style tomorrow. If you want to remain relevant in your industry, whatever that may be, you will need to adapt to whatever the current packaging trends are.
Actually, let’s take it one step further: You should try to be ahead of the curve in terms of packaging trends. You should aim to anticipate which packaging trends will be popular in the coming months and year, and then you should capitalize on those packaging trends. And that’s where we come in.
In this article, we’ll provide you with a detailed look into some of the smartest packaging trends and redesign ideas we’re predicting for what has slowly become a post-pandemic world. We’ll specifically look at some colours and prints that are in style, how manufacturing and packaging supply are changing, the smartest and best optimization techniques for your packaging, how to diversify your sustainable packaging solutions, and any other unique packaging trends you are likely to see become commonplace in 2023.
#1: Go With Eco-Friendly Vegetable Ink
Let us start by looking at one of the brightest, eco-friendliest, most innovative packaging trends to come along in quite a while: vegetable ink. For the longest time, the ink of choice for most packaging has been petroleum-based. But the unfortunate truth about petroleum-based ink is that sustainability has often been looked at as an afterthought. Petroleum, as you might have already guessed, leaves far more of a negative carbon footprint on our earth than is ideal.
That’s all changing with the packaging trend that is vegetable ink. This type of ink can be made using plenty of different sustainable materials, such as corn oil, soybeans, safflower oil, or canola oil. And this unique packaging trend won’t just help you be more eco-friendly—it’s also incredibly cost-effective when you’re printing on the right materials.
#2: Delightful Unboxing Experiences are What Customers Want
Shouldn’t the experience of opening a package be just as fun as the product itself? As a business looking to redesign your packaging and lead the way in terms of packaging trends, the customer’s experience should always be at the forefront of your mind. You truly want to offer the most delightful unboxing experience imaginable—especially since the “delightful unboxing experience” is another packaging trend we expect to skyrocket in popularity in 2023.
The unboxing experience entered the spotlight in an entirely new way with the onset of the COVD-19 pandemic in early 2020. Companies were suddenly scrambling to offer more to their consumer base. They had to ask themselves: How can we make the unboxing experience more fun? What can we offer in the form of free merchandise within our packaging? How are our branding efforts carrying over in our packaging? The narrative behind packaging—and the unboxing experience in itself—reached another level with COVID, and it’s only continuing to become more of a focal point now.
There are a number of ways to enhance the unboxing experience your package can provide. But first and foremost, you must focus on making your brand the face of your packaging. The narrative behind your brand must stand out in a unique way.
You should also scrutinize your product presentation (perhaps use see-through material?), include clever inserts, and use unique and sustainable packaging materials (which we’ll discuss more in the body of this article) whenever and wherever possible. The point is that you must offer your customer base as delightful a packaging experience as is possibly imaginable.
This clever packaging trend can also greatly enhance the likeness of your brand. Imagine a social media influencer gets their hands on your package, and then they broadcast the delightful unboxing experience you’ve concocted for them? The exposure could be monumental.
#3: Raw Materials Taking Over
Another eco-friendly packaging trend we expect to see more of is the use of raw-material-based packages. Again, the focus here is on sustainability. Raw materials are obviously more unique than traditional materials, and they can reduce our carbon footprint at the same time. That makes this packaging trend both eco-friendly and fun!
Raw materials to consider for your packaging include cork, mushrooms, seaweed, and bagasse (which is made from sugarcane fibres). If you’re planning on shifting your branding over so that it’s more sustainability-focused, then any of these raw materials will help contribute to your goal.
Perhaps the biggest of all the raw materials we suggest using is paper pulp. Year after year, the use of paper around the world continues to grow. So, to say this is a new packaging trend might be a tad misleading. But at the same time, using recycled paper—and more specifically, paper pulp—has never been more in style. We expect the use of moulded paper packaging made from 100% recyclable paper to grow more than ever in 2023. Get in on this packaging trend now, and that way you won’t be the last one to join the party.
#4: Protective Packaging Meant to Last
Shouldn’t a package be robust? And should it not be durable? We certainly think packages should be built to last. And in 2023, the packing trend of protective packaging will surely enter the limelight more than ever before.
What is protective packaging? Put simply, it means a package is built to withstand the often-strenuous process of manufacturing and shipping. Durable materials—like flexible films, carded packaging, and air pillows—are built into a package for added protection.
Protective packaging isn’t just some cool packaging trend—it also comes with benefits galore. For one, protective packaging can add to one of the packaging trends we mentioned earlier: the delightful unboxing experience. If your package arrives in the mail looking sleek and indestructible, there’s a good chance whoever’s opening the package will be more impressed.
Oh, and did we mention protective packaging has become more focused on sustainability too? Plant-based polymers and other biodegradable materials are quickly becoming more widely used in the industry.
So, don’t get left behind. The earlier you start focusing on protective packaging, the better.
#5: Colour of the Year: Digital Lavender
Every year has a colour, and that colour is always a packaging trend that is easy to capitalize on. In 2022, WGSN named Orchid Flower their Colour of the Year. The year before that, they selected Al Aqua as the colour most likely to rule the current day. And for the upcoming year, WGSN has selected Digital Lavender as the tone to rule all other tones in the world of design and product packaging.
Sometimes, a packaging trend is truly as simple as adopting new colours. So, whether you want to alter your branding or simply redesign some of your current packaging layouts with new colours, we recommend going with the 2023 colour of the year. Digital Lavender should find a spot somewhere in your future packaging plans.
#6: Delicious Dissolvable & Edible Packaging
Some packaging trends are meant to stand the test of time, and dissolvable/edible packages surely fit into that category. Not only are dissolvable and edible packages extremely fun, but they were also developed specifically with sustainability in mind.
As was mentioned earlier, one packaging trend expected to rise in popularity is the use of raw materials. And raw materials are exactly what dissolvable and edible packaging are all about. Whether they’re being made from natural dyes, natural sweeteners, or even algae, dissolvable and edible packaging are here to stay.
Oh, and what could be more delightful than an unboxing experience where you literally eat the package your product came in? This packaging trend is one you will definitely want to make your own in 2023.
#7: 3D Printing is the Future
This packaging trend might last the next decade and beyond.
With an enhanced focus on sustainability and technology comes a global shift in manufacturing and packaging supply. Gone are the days of wasteful mass manufacturing. Instead, the packaging industry is moving towards a new age. And in this new age, 3D printing might reign supreme.
For starters, 3D printers are an immeasurable step up from our current method of creating packaging prototypes. They offer more flexibility and cost-efficiency than traditional methods of manufacturing. 3D printers also assist with sustainability measures by reducing the amount of manufacturing that takes place in other countries. Instead of carrying out the manufacturing overseas, it can be completed right here in our very own backyard with 3D printers.
And speaking of reducing manufacturing—3D printers will also assist in the reduction of actual manufacturing plants. Smaller and smarter manufacturing facilities will be utilized instead, further leading to an improvement in the packaging industry’s sustainability efforts.
Years ago, this packaging trend seemed like a thing only capable in the far-off future. But suddenly, 3D printing is staring us directly in the face and asking to be implemented on a broader scale. The question isn’t “How?” It’s “How soon?”
#8: Smart Packaging Rules the Day
Let’s end with a packaging trend that has slowly been working its way toward the limelight: smart packaging (also known as active packaging and intelligent packaging). The focus of smart packaging lies in optimization, communication, and added durability to the product.
Here, let us spell it out a bit more. As we said, smart packaging is all about optimization: optimizing the product or optimizing communication with a buyer. And thankfully, technologies have emerged in recent years that allow for smarter and more sustainable packages. These smart packages are simultaneously capable of improving a product’s shelf life and communicating with the buyer about the status of the package.
There are two specific branches of smart packaging, the first of which is active packaging. With active packaging, the focus is on optimizing the shelf life of the product within the package. Examples of this include oxygen absorbers, antimicrobial coating, and materials capable of controlling moisture content.
The second type of smart packaging is intelligent packaging. This time, the focus is on communicating with whoever purchased the product. Sensors and indicators have been developed that are capable of tracking certain aspects of a product within a package. For instance, the temperature and freshness of food products are tested with intelligent packaging. This unique packaging solution ensures that the end product remains healthy for the consumer.
This goes without saying, but after COVID-19 ravaged the global community these past few years, the focus on our health has become more pertinent than ever before. While many consumers have not yet heard of smart packaging, they will become more and more aware of what it is in the very near future.
Smart packaging has seen exponential growth over the years too, indicating that it’s ready to burst fully onto the scene as a packaging trend in 2023. A report from Grand View Research shows that revenue from smart packaging is expected to hit $26.7 billion US by 2024, up from just a $10.8 billion revenue in 2015.
Lean into this packaging trend as soon as possible. Because when your customer base finally starts coming around to smart packaging, they’ll notice you were well ahead of the ball.
And there you have it. Packaging trends in 2023 are all about sustainability, smart packaging solutions, and better manufacturing efforts in our post-pandemic world. Start using paper pulp. Look into edible packages. Make your packages more durable, investigate the development of 3D printers when you can, and make sure a priority is placed on using vegetable ink. Packaging trends are constantly evolving, and we don’t want your company to get left behind.
And be sure to check in with us soon, as we’re always keeping tabs on the latest packaging trends!