Competing shelf space for products, the overwhelming increase in e-commerce shopping, and shipping restrictions are just a few factors that have caused a need for rethinking product packaging solutions.
Technology is also constantly shifting the way we shop and obtain products. When consumer behavior changes, businesses must react accordingly. While we can’t predict the future, we must keep up with the trends to control costs and understand how to increase buyer satisfaction in the packaging process.
Because of technological advances, we currently live in an instantaneous world where you can order just about anything online and have most products arrive at your door with in days (if not the same day). With roughly 2 billion people in the world carrying smartphones, many depend on these devices for grocery and meal-kit delivery, product reviews and information, and coupons and deals – and this is just the beginning.
How does this impact packaging? Let’s look at rigid packaging versus flexible packaging.
Rigid Packaging vs. Flexible Packaging
Rigid packaging encompasses tin cans, glass bottles, boxes and other corrugated products. These options provide structure and support for some of the most vulnerable products that are on our shelves. Of course we take every measure we can to minimize damage, however, the multi-step process of shipping and handling can often pose risks to the enclosed products; rigid packaging safely absorbs these blows to save the products inside.
On the other hand, flexible packaging includes pouches, bags, and other lightweight alternatives to rigid packaging. While we’ll look at specific trends and causes next, flexibles are quickly becoming the new norm in packaging. These products are often sealed with heat or pressure and are available in an endless variety of forms. With flexible packaging, the name says it all – these materials can be modified, engineered, and manufactured to accommodate any shape, size (large or small), color, etc.
Many companies are seeing the benefits of switching from rigid to flexible packaging. The flexible packaging market has exponentially increased over the past decade, predictably due to changes in the way customers interact with products, as well as the cost savings of flexible packaging and the environmental implications of rigid packaging. Soups, sauces, baby foods, cleaning supplies, and many other consumer goods that were historically packaged in cans or jars are now switching to pouches, many with convenient closure options to save and re-use products. The switch to flexible packaging benefits manufacturers by reducing weight and costs in warehousing and shipping, reducing energy during production, and enhancements in sustainability; retailers by reducing weight/size and increasing shelf space, improved graphics to attract customer attention, and improved shelf life; and customers by offering convenient features that weren’t available in cans and jars, as well as improved taste in food products.
Notable statistics include:
- Flexible Packaging is the second largest packaging segment in the U.S., garnering about 19 percent of the U.S. $164 billion packaging market. – Flexible Packaging Association, June 2015
- US demand for converted flexible packaging is projected to total $20.7B in 2019, representing an increased transition from rigid to flexible packaging. – Freedonia, Converted Flexible Packaging: United States, October 2015
- 32% of consumers associate flexible packaging with being modern. Flexibles experienced a 56% growth rate in launch of consumer packaged goods packaging between the years 2010 and 2014. – Mintel Global packaging Trends, 2016
- By 2023, the issue of sustainable packaging is predicted to become the number one challenge facing companies, beating out cost and other issues. – “The Future of Sustainable Packaging to 2018,” Smithers Pira
- Consumers are demanding foods that are easier to eat, cook, and offer customizable portions. – IRI/FMI, Top Trends in Fresh, April 28, 2016
- Packaging attributes consumers consider most important: #1 easy to store (66%); #2 ability to reseal (65%); #3 easy to open (60%); ability to extend product shelf life (55%); and #5 easy to carry (47%). – Flexible Packaging Association, “Consumers, Brand Owners, and Converters- a Unique Integrated Study on Flexible Packaging,” March 2016