Packaging may sometimes appear very wasteful to people. Used only temporarily and the act of throwing it away does not feel good. The times of a ‘throw away society’ have definitely given way for the circular society, where we share and reuse as much as possible. However, packaging, even for one time use, is still vital in our way of live. As a fact, packaging design can help make sustainable lifestyle choices. Here are five general trends in the future of food packaging which we will see in the coming years.
1. Intelligent packaging, printed electronics
Sensors that indicate when a product is no longer good will replace the ‘best before’ print. With a much more precise message, people will throw away less of their food. Store and chain logistics will be optimized using RIFD chips. Especially for fresh produce it will help to keep the supply tailored to the demand of the customer, and avoid overstocking and waste.
Intelligent fridges could also help people to be aware of the food they have stored. Printed electronics on food packages could communicate with the fridge, and for instance provide menu suggestions. Also communication with your smart phone may tell you the additional items you need to make a nice meal, and use what you have there in your fridge.
2. Single servings, on the go
With more single households and dynamic, on the move, lifestyles, people need to grab their shoppings right when they need them. Single serving packages, easy to open and consume on the spot is more than just convenient. This means, products that don’t ask for a plate, a spoon or a stove, but are still tasteful, fulfilling and preferably healthy.
Single servings may sound as more packaging, but actually can reduce food waste enormously. The net impact of waste materials is likely to be in favour of single servings for individual use.
3. Sensory, more engaging packaging
The most important thing in packaging design is telling the story of the product. People want to know more about their products and where their food comes from. That is not only with words, but using all of the senses to engage people. Food is emotion and so is design. With fonts, images, colours, textures, or the printed suggestion of textures and materials, people understand the meaning and message of the product.
Customized and personalized packaging can be even more engaging, as it is a special design for each individual. A personalized design makes a meaningful product, something that stands out.
4. Sustainable packaging
For most people, a throw away package is an eye catching example of our waste producing lifestyle. Therefore, a green packaging material is somehow alleviating the inner discomfort of throwing things away. For producers, ecologically sound packaging materials are part of a corporate social responsibility strategy. This not only includes green, compostable packaging materials and recycling, but also smart use of shipping space, through clever shapes and light weight materials.
Bioresins deserve special mentioning as the biobased economy will come of age. Plant based materials are replacing traditional plastics made from refined oil. Renewable materials are often made out of waste materials from food processing, thus closing the loop there. They help to establish the circular economy as the old ‘take, make and waste’ economy comes to an end.
5. Augmented reality
Maybe a little further down the road, at least in our current imagination, but packaging could be the gateway to experiencing the product. More than just the visual and textural impression of the package, through augmented reality glasses, like Google glass, we could see what is inside the box and how to use it. The future of augmented reality is dynamic and possibilities are endless, and packaging design gives many options.
Essential in all these trends is the opportunity for packaging design to give meaning, to tell a story that is important to the producer and consumer. Thus package design serves to engage and is a means to communicate. And as consumers are becoming more articulate in their demands, voting with their feet and mouths, designers need to respond and use all their options to tell the honest story of their product.