2024 Trends In Packaging: Design

Packaging designs change a lot. They evolve from one version to another, and the field of packaging design evolves continuously year after year.

This year, we expect to see two different trends in the space of packaging materials and color. On one hand, we expect to see a lot of clear packaging from businesses that want to let their products speak for themselves or that want to emphasize their own transparency. On the other hand, sustainably-minded businesses will move towards green and/or brown color schemes.

Adding to this theme of divergence, we expect to see some brands embrace a minimalist approach that evokes calm and cleanness while others opt for a maximalist approach to stand out. Lastly, there will be divergence within plastics as they shift away from black.

So, for the second part of this year’s Trends In Packaging series, let’s dive into these appearance trends.

Green & Brown for Compostable Packaging

Perhaps one of the biggest trends we expect to see in 2024 is a further shift of compostable packaging towards green and brown color schemes.

As brands seek to grow their sustainable sales, they’ll emphasize those values by adopting a green and brown color scheme since that’s what colors expect to see, but that’s not the only thing that’s driving this trend. Governments are starting to regulate the appearance of compostable packaging in an effort to clear up consumers’ confusion. The state of Washington, for instance, requires that compostable packaging use “green, beige, or brown labeling, color striping, or other green, beige, or brown symbols, colors, tinting, marks, or design patterns.” At the same time, that state is restricting who can use those colors so as to avoid confusion in the marketplace.

Other states are looking at similar labeling and color requirements, so expect this trend to take off as governments take action. In another West Coast state, California, a bill requires all pre-checkout bags sold to be certified compostable, reusable, or made from recycled paper. The compostable ones must be green, brown, or beige, while other bags are prohibited from tinting their products that way.

As more consumers, and regulators, begin to demand compostable packaging, expect to see more of those packages coming in green and brown color schemes as well as in compostable substrates.

Third-Party Certifications Become King

Speaking of sustainability, we expect to see more use of third-party certifications that help customers feel at ease with their sustainable purchases. Sadly, trust is low between customers and their favorite brands, but brands can rebuild that trust through certifications. It can differentiate you from your competitors, help you to grow your sustainable sales, and demonstrate your commitment to your brand values. At Inno-Pak, for instance, we display the BPI and/or CMA logos on our commercially compostable packaging. Consumers recognize these logos and can rest assured that these products will commercially compost in an approved facility.

Building trust comes with rewards, too. Research has found that customers have an increase in the perceived value of eco-friendly brands and are willing to pay more for their products. Not only do third-party certifications build trust, in some cases, they can be mandated. Remember that law in Washington? It also requires “labeling that…uses a logo indicating the product has been certified by a recognized third-party independent verification body as meeting the SATM standard specification.”

Seeing Is Believing

Another trend we expect to see more of in 2024 is a move towards transparent packaging materials and, thankfully, PLA makes it easy to balance sustainability with transparency. PLA, a plant-based alternative to petroleum-based plastics, is clear and mimics the performance of plastic but is made from plants and can be used in the design of commercially compostable packaging.

There’s a good reason for this trend. First, brands are starting to see the value in cultivating a perception of authenticity—and you can’t be authentic if you’re not transparent with your customers. Smart brands will emphasize these values with transparent packaging that clearly illustrates their product’s value. Given that 85% of customers say a brand’s history of transparency is a major factor in whether they’ll return after a bad experience, emphasizing those values is important.

Another reason that clear packaging is going to be a trend in 2024 is simply because customers like to see what it is that they’re getting. Clear packaging allows them to see the product, the ingredients, and whether there are any blemishes or issues with the packaging. It also lets them see portion sizes in a way that an opaque package does not.

Minimalism Vs. Maximalism

This is an interesting trend we’ve seen for two years in a row now. Some brands will choose a minimalist, streamlined look and feel while others will be loud and proud and colorful.

Considering the other visual trends in this article it’s easy to see why many brands will adopt a minimalist look. Minimalism underscores the values of sustainability and transparency by presenting a clean, uncluttered look with a simple color palette. It makes understanding a product easy (transparency) and can emphasize the ease of sustainability. Expect to see brands cutting away extra elements until only the essentials remain. Fonts will be large, straightforward, and readable, and the design elements will be arranged to draw the users’ eyes in a certain way.

Maximalism, on the other hand, is all about standing out in a crowded marketplace. They’ll use a lot of bright, vibrant colors as well as bold fonts and saturated layers. They’ll fill up the whitespace with patterns or extra elements and will look experimental and even playful.

If you’re looking to capitalize on this trend, be sure to approach it from a branding perspective. If simplicity of ingredients is one of your core values, then a minimalist approach is right for you. If being individualistic and proud are your core traits, then consider a maximalist one.

Plastics Shift Away from Black

Another trend we expect to see more of in 2024 is a shift away from black plastic containers. The reason for this trend connects to our sustainability trends.

As it stands, most recycling facilities use some sort of light to sort plastics, but black plastic absorbs the light instead of bouncing it back. The sorting equipment, effectively, can’t see it. Where other plastics get sorted into recycling streams, black plastics tend to go to the landfill. To improve the recyclability of their products, brands will ditch black plastic containers with clear lids. We anticipate seeing more white, clear, and tan bases being used in place of the black ones.

How to Make Use of This Trend

A collage of commercially compostable products by Inno-Pak

There are many different ways that you can use these design trends.

If sustainability is a core part of your business, then make sure that you’re packaging reflects that in its design. If possible, use those green or brown color schemes, and use third-party certifications that apply to your products. As always, make sure that you comply with national, state/provincial, and local laws where you do business, and make sure you have a packaging partner who can work with you on compliance. If you’re using black plastic packaging, think about replacing it with something that’s going to get recycled when it gets to the sorting facility.

As for the look and feel of your packaging, consider your brand values and try to let them inform your decisions. If on one hand your brand emphasizes simplicity and straightforwardness, then a minimalist look is right for you. If, on the other hand, your brand values individuality, then use a maximalist approach that emphasizes your brand’s differences.

Whichever design choices you make, it’s important to have a packaging partner that can help you stand out. At Inno-Pak, our creative team can create a design that’ll wow your customers or help you bring your own ideas to life. If you’re ready to put your best food forward, please contact us.