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Packaging trends for 2020

01 March 2020

David Luttenberger, global packaging director at Mintel, discusses the major trends influencing the packaging sector worldwide during the coming year. 

Despite the world's wishes, single-use plastic will exist for decades to come. With a fraction of the world's plastic waste actually being recycled, there is a dire need to explore technologies that are ‘technically’ recyclable now, and for the development of plastic alternatives – not just single-use plastics, but for all types of plastics and packaging. 

Time is of the essence; these technologies must be developed now, ahead of their ability to be recycled, rather than the other way around. However, next-generation technologies are only small pieces of the greater equation that will address and solve the waste and recycling crisis. It’s hard to recycle if consumers are not first reminded to ‘return’ packaging to the proper recycling bin or store take-back system. The ultimate solution is brands, manufacturers, packaging industry bodies, governments, and environmental non-profits working together to better inform consumers, develop more easily recyclable packaging, and establish better collection systems and recycling processes.

Regardless of the material used, the next iteration of the circular economy is clearly focused on reusability, alongside recyclability. With single-use now a toxic phrase for many consumers, refillable packaging is becoming more commonly known and used. While consumers want packaging reduction that comes from reuse, they expect this to be a simple and mess-free transaction. But, without packaging to serve as one of the main communication channels from brands to consumers, branding can become challenging. Brands should look to offer memorable experiences through refill in order to create brand engagement, with those bringing some theatre to the refill moment most likely to succeed. And while many smaller refill stores use Instagrammable containers (such as attractive heritage glass jars), if refill is to become mainstream, consumers will expect refillable options that are easy to use from start to finish. By meeting this need, brands have an opportunity to ensure that their message is maintained.


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