Packaging design has a lot of functions to fulfil. They need to grab our attention at the store, convey information about nutrition and even look good when we bring them home to our kitchens. With more and more technology and focus on sustainability, packaging design is experiencing big shifts, both in their function and the materials we use. We will take a look at some of the most innovative areas of package design that will shape the way we design in the future.
Smart packaging uses sensors and has quickly become a growing market, expected to reach $26.7bn by 2024. The sensors can help with a wide variety of things like tracking shelf life to help reduce food waste and making sure medication is used in the right way. Besides these benefits, many companies are experimenting with using smart packaging as a new way to make money, through Virtual Reality and automatic re-ordering of products as they run out. Think sensors on your milk that notices when it is running low or the cereal packet makes a little dance when you look at it through your phone camera. Even though many of the functions like reducing food waste could be a great asset in helping us become more sustainable, some feel concerned about the data collection and privacy connected to smart packaging.
3D printing allows us to quickly create prototypes and be a lot more open to alternatives and experimentation. Traditional moulds can be very expensive so companies creating a product can now use 3D printing to create different options to test before committing to a final design. The plastic used in 3D printing can also be melted down and used again so it brings a whole new set of opportunities for sustainability. For brands, personalisation has become more and more important and the ability to create custom packaging for a low price could mean a whole new door is opening for smaller brands.
Companies are starting to realise that using sustainable packaging is no longer a nice thing to do but a crucial step to staying relevant and compliant. Many countries are banning single use plastics and consumers are often happy to pay a little bit more for sustainable products. This is a super exciting space with many working hard to find the perfect material that can both look good and be sustainable. As we mentioned in our episode on sustainability, the reduce, reuse and recycle mantra should be prioritised in that way. This means our number one goal should be to reduce the amount of waste produced in the first place. One company who have come up with innovative substitutes for plastic and leather are MakeGrowLab who use SCOBY - a material woven by microorganisms.
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