2022 Trends In Packaging: Sustainability

Trends are everywhere. Trends in the fashion, music, or social media worlds are in front of us every time we pick up our smartphones or turn on the tv. We are bombarded with them and pay attention to them, knowingly or unknowingly, every day. We pay attention to trends on Wall Street and in our business lives because they can affect a company’s bottom line and market reach. These are all examples of how trends affect us and our businesses and alter how we perceive things and the decisions we make throughout the day, including how we use our purchasing power.

In the packaging world, this is no different. Trends come and go, and keeping track of it can be a monumental task. Are you using the right colors? Similarly, are your graphic design choices reflective of your business and what it stands for? Conversely, does all of it convey the right messaging and attract consumers to your store? Are you using the right kind of packaging? Whether you are a single unit operator or a worldwide chain, these are all things you need to consider and know. We are here to help you keep track of the biggest trends in the packaging world right now.

Here is our take on what is happening in the packaging world regarding color, design, physical package design, and sustainability. Accordingly, you’ll see how many of these trends interconnect and can complement each other. Our hope is this information helps you make decisions that help your business prosper in this ever-changing world.

Trends in Sustainability

Consumers today want sustainability more than ever—and that demand is only going to grow. In fact, 77% of customers are concerned about the environmental impact of their purchases and 64% are willing to pay more for sustainable products.

Less Is More

As we’ve written about in both the graphic design and structural design trends, expect to see a lot more minimalism in 2022. Brands are moving away from loud, bright colors, unnecessary features, in-your-face-graphics, and from using unnecessary material. Reducing the amount of material is crucial to any brand’s sustainability efforts and is often the biggest step any business can take towards reducing its negative impacts on the environment. Accordingly, packaging manufacturers will move to “right-sizing” their packaging. They’ll ensure that their products are no bigger and no smaller and use no more material than necessary. For example, our own Rotisserie & Fried Chicken Bags drastically reduce the amount of material used to package rotisserie chickens compared to rigid plastic domes.

As 2022 continues, expect to see more products wrapped in fewer materials and less packaging overall. That may mean:

  • Right-sizing cartons or bags for takeout orders
  • Less plastic used in packaging (wraps, windows, total packages)
  • Removing unnecessary plastic liners from shipping cartons
  • Limiting the use of adhesives or inks
  • Less material use overall

Reducing your material usage can make a huge environmental impact. It has other benefits, too. In a marketplace crowded with loud and sometimes obnoxious packages, it’s the simplified, streamlined package that stands out.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

In addition to reducing the source material used, expect to see products that are recyclable, compostable, or reusable. Packaging manufacturers will offer these to help you achieve your sustainability goals.

Compostable packaging helps the environment by turning into nutrient-rich compost for the plants that we rely on for food, paper, oxygen, and more. In the world of food packaging, it’s a strong, natural tie-in. After all, who doesn’t want to associate their food products with growing our natural resources?

Compostable packaging is fertile soil for environmentally-minded businesses. By using compostable packaging, you can turn what used to be a package bound for the landfill into one that becomes a soil enricher. In addition to conserving landfill space, you also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste and other organic materials turn into methane when they break down in landfills, according to the U.S. EPA. Investing in compostable packaging can be a net win for composters, food growers, consumers, the environment, and your business.

Recyclable packaging has seen renewed interest in the marketplace, but expect a renewed urgency on this front. As people talk more and more about climate change, marine waste, and other issues, they’ll expect their favorite businesses to do something about these issues. Brands will invest more in recyclable packaging. As such, expect to see more products made from recycled materials, which we’ll talk about later. Also, brands will make greater use of materials that can be recycled and will actively use fewer materials that can’t be recycled widely.

Whether you use recyclable or compostable packaging, it’s crucial that brands communicate how to properly dispose of the packaging. Do I need to remove that plastic window before recycling? Do I need to tear off the top of my pizza box? A well-made package will include the steps needed for proper disposal, and third-party certification and labeling systems can help you communicate these steps clearly and with confidence.

Another consideration you should make is whether to use recycled materials in your packaging. Recycling does little good if those recycled materials aren’t given a new life. By buying packaging made from recycled materials, you help create a demand for an environmentally beneficial product—and demonstrate your commitment to the Earth that sustains us all.

Paper or Plastic? Mushrooms, Maybe?

As consumers increasingly worry about their habits’ impact on the environment, expect to see a shift away from plastic to paper. Plastic, after all, can take 1,000 years or more to decompose and has a negative environmental reputation. As a result, consumers and producers alike will seek to use paper whenever the properties of plastic aren’t necessary or preferable.

It isn’t as easy as using paper where we used to use plastic, however. Switching to paper presents tradeoffs and even sacrifices that many consumers may not be willing to make. For instance, plastic packaging has a higher potential for resisting grease and liquid penetration than paper does. The right kinds of plastic are also less prone to tearing and breaking, too.

One compromise might be to reduce the amount of plastic that gets used. Instead of using a large plastic box with a lot of wasted space, brands may switch to smaller, more efficient pouches or bags. They may also use plastic wraps with paper overwraps or other packages that mix materials.

While paper will become the go-to for many packaging manufacturers, others may experiment with alternatives, such as IKEA’s commitment to biodegradable mushroom packaging. Others, including ourselves, have already invested in tree-free materials, such as bagasse, a byproduct of sugarcane processing. Another alternative material could be bamboo. Bamboo grows more quickly than trees do, breaks down more easily than paper, and can be used to promote soil health and prevent erosion.

Regardless of the material used, the end goal is the same—to minimize the harms associated with packaging—which brings us to our next point.

Build Your Brand with Sustainable Packaging

With the all-time high demand for sustainable goods, switching to eco-friendly packaging is an opportunity to build your brand. Consumers want their favorite businesses to tackle these problems head on—and they’re willing and ready to support the winners with their wallets.

In 2022, brands that invest in sustainable packaging will also invest in making sure their customers know about that switch. They’ll advertise their changes and communicate why they matter. They’ll also make the case that their practices protect and promote the environment.

Consumers who have been hurt in the past by greenwashing may remain skeptical, however. As such, brands will have to provide proof and turn to third-party certifiers to make their case. Expect to see heightened interest on those organizations this year.

Going Sustainable Can Be Confusing, But It Doesn’t Have to Be

Sustainability and environmental impact aren’t just part of everyday business today. They’re also a big business in themselves. Capturing sustainable sales an be challenging, but it’s also rewarding.

With all these trends and the myriad factors that you need to consider, it can be confusing and overwhelming to try and figure out your course to sustainability. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. At Inno-Pak, we can help you develop a robust, sustainable packaging program and help you communicate your commitment to the environment.

If you’re prepared for the challenge, so are we. Reach out to us and see how Inno-Pak can help you meet your goals.