In these turbulent times, packaging is being used as a platform to support, bolster and influence causes that matter. Alongside this, the sector has sharpened its delivery mechanisms to meet a Covid-induced e-commerce eruption, while thriving categories are being given a design refresh to double-down on relevance and impact.
As we slowly begin to return to a more common sense of day-to-day life, there is no escaping the fact that the after effects of COVID-19 will stick with as all for a time to come. During the past year key principles of hygiene and safety have been amplified. However, this leads to a key question of whether or not sustainable or ‘eco’ packaging will be a priority?
In the years preceding COVID there was a widespread consumer push towards sustainable and ‘plastic-free’ packaging, which was thought to be threatened as a result of covid as there was a drastic rise in single-use packaging. Ultimately, in order to avoid losing the advancements in sustainable practices that have been developed in recent years, packaging manufacturers and designers must find a way to ensure that safety and sustainability can coincide.
Safety Above All Else
As concern grew around the safety and hygiene of packaging many consumers opted to purchase an increased volume of single-use plastic packaged goods. Resultantly, many businesses in the Coffee industry inevitably had to ban the use of reusable cups in order to protect both employees and customers. However, this further contributed to the amount of single-use cups in circulation, with the UK alone already throwing away 2.5 billion coffee cups per year.
Reconciling Hygiene with Sustainability
One way in which to combat the issue of ensuring safe packaging but prevent the move back towards single-use plastic is to incorporate tamper-proof seals and stronger packaging, which in turn increases consumer confidence once again. Businesses will and can incorporate recyclable methods, such as using aluminum foil to create a ‘cover’ effect around the product, ensuring that the product remains free from any harmful bacteria or dust.
Product Presentations for Booming Categories
As Covid-19 has brought many industries and product categories to their knees, the opposite effect has occurred in the ever-resilient FMCG sector. Notably the at-home drinks sector continued to thrive, as well as bottled water and snack sales. Tapping the At-Home Drinking Occasion: London beer brand Fourpure’s new beer label was created in response to Covid-19 travel restrictions. “With six new beers in production, the world shut down around us, and they [the new beers] were left without a home. Rather than be disheartened, we came up with the concept of 'No Passport Required' – a global tour in beer, to be enjoyed from the comfort of your sofa,” explains Adrian Lugg, head of marketing at Fourpure.
Designing for Better Delivery
At-home consumers have embraced food delivery wholeheartedly. In the UK, 60% of 18-24 year-olds had increased upatake of food delivery services since March 2020. Aside from offering visually attractive designs, food brands needed to also ensure: convenience, freshness, and sustainability of packaging. UK pizza chain Pizza Pilgrims ‘frying pan pizza kit’ is delivered in thermal insulated Woolcool felt packaging that keeps foods at five degrees. Woolcool is made from 100% felted sheep’s wool, which is washed in a natural process, scoured and then sealed within a recyclable micro-perforated polyethylene wrap. It can be repurposed into soft bedding for pets or chicks, art material for kids or protective covering for seedlings. As more and more people faced being stuck at home, the ‘letterbox-friendly’ design became incredibly popular to ensure a contactless delivery for both courier and consumer.
With the consumer demand for plastic free packaging key, evident in the fact that more than 50% of consumers are willing to pay more for plastic free packaging, many see the way forward to take the form of paper packaging. The use of paper as a primary recyclable and sustainable packaging material is key for the future in terms of reducing the use of single-use plastics. Paper is a great resource for packaging as it still allows for products to be packaged securely and hygienically, as well as having biodegradable properties, of which 4 in 5 consumers feel positively towards biodegradable and compostable packaging.
Moving forward, there is a key focus on packaging to have ease of recyclability, the premise of this being that packaging consists of minimal different materials. This the case as the fewer different materials used within a product’s packaging, the easier the recycling process becomes, this in relation to energy exerted to separate the materials.
As well as the key focus on sustainability, there will inevitably be a prolonged focus on the ability of packaging to be hygienic. Here the spotlight shifts towards card. Card is seen as one of the best materials for hygiene with COVID-19 only living for 24 hours, illustrating the future desirability of card. This starkly different to other materials such as Plastic (3-7 days), Stainless Steel (3-7 days), Paper (up to 4 days), and Glass (up to 4 days) that allow bacteria and viruses to survive longer.
As a result of the challenge that presents us all nowadays whether it be from a business or a consumer perspective, we at Blake are aware of our responsibility to be sustainable in all practices. We believe that sustainability isn’t just about meeting current needs, however, about ensuring that we are here for the long term and that we pave the way for a bright tomorrow.