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What Will Happen To Packaging in 2021? What will be the new normal for packaging?

By 13/09/2020September 29th, 2020No Comments

What is the new normal for packaging design? 

As we see the restrictions of the recent pandemic slowly begin to be lifted, packaging companies are starting to readjust and refocus. But, with the pandemic triggering many short and long term disruptions, companies need to readjust to a new normal within the industry.

Many changes have developed over the past few months, including dramatic shifts in consumer behaviour, heightened hygiene and consumer-safety concerns and the disruption of several end markets (such as hospitality and restaurants) by stay-at-home orders. But, we expect the current crisis to reshape key trends in the packaging industry.

These trends will have short and long term implications for packaging design. Therefore, to prepare for a new normal, companies need to rethink packaging design beyond the obvious, such as costs, convenience and performance. But instead, focus on major trends such as sustainability, design with heightened customer safety, and most importantly, e-commerce.

That is why our experts have outlined several different trends which will contribute to the new normal and begin packaging companies new journey.

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What impact has the pandemic had on packaging design?

Regardless of a new normal, packaging design already plays an important role in certain aspects. For example:

Supporting The Consumer Journey – No, we don’t mean the physical journey a package will take to get to a customer’s door, but instead how the packaging determines the consumer’s decision. The consumer’s perceptions of both the actual product and brand value depend significantly on the packaging – both in its feel and how it looks. Therefore, the packaging is a crucial component in promoting products and helps to differentiate the introduction of new ones. Particularly in today’s world, with heated competition on shelves, everyone is fighting for the consumer’s attention.

Cost-Efficient Delivery System – Packaging’s fundamental role is to contain and protect a product. Usually, when we think of packaging, we automatically think of it helping to preserve food, to extend its shelf life, or to minimise waste. That is why packaging design needs to consider its primary use. As they say, start with the basics.

Convenience –
Consumer’s changing behaviour and lifestyles have imposed new demands on packaged goods – for example, reducing the preparation time of food, packaging ready-to-eat fresh meals, and enabling sectioning, portability, and smaller individual packs. Packaging design has played an essential role in fulfilling these requirements by incorporating, for example, easy-to-open and resealable closures.

New trends for the new normal: What key trends will become pivotal?

As we move into a new stage for packaging design, it is pivotal that companies evaluate their packaging design beyond the already existing trends and shift towards the new normal.


Sustainable packaging has long been a key trend which we have often talked about in previous blogs. Many companies from around the world were actively adapting to the issue of environmentally friendly design, making bold statements to rethink their packaging processes.

However, with the effects of the pandemic, sustainability has taken a back seat. Therefore, this leads to the question, what will happen to the sustainability agenda now?

Here at Eastpac, we believe sustainability will remain a significant trend in the industry, but also one that will continue to shape methods and design. But, as a result of the pandemic, environmental packaging should be reconsidered alongside a focus on hygiene and safety concerns. For example, some businesses are applying new approaches to hygiene, which meet the demands of consumers wanting single-use wrapped items. Packaging design, therefore, needs to meet the function of minimal viability of the virus, but also sustainable packaging materials.

As a result of the new normal, we need to address both sustainability and hygiene concerns, as well as the already essential factors of performance and cost. But, focusing purely on the environmental agenda, businesses need to make the necessary moves to begin eliminating unnecessary packaging and helping to communicate sustainability narratives more effectively (for example, by showing consumers how to recycle packaging).


As we have touched on, it is clear that consumer’s awareness of health and safety has increased dramatically. But, even after the virus has gone, people are likely to be concerned with hygiene. A recent study in America revealed that two-thirds of consumers worry about contracting the virus from food packaging, and more than 40% use household disinfectants to clean the products they buy.

Moreover, during the crisis, the consequences seem to be an increase in single-use packaging. For example, take-out food typically requires more packaging than food at quick-serve restaurants. That is why packaging design needs to protect customers through several aspects of improved design.

  • Ensure that the virus is minimally viable on the packaging surface. The choice of material can affect the viability of the virus. A recent study, published during the pandemic indicates that coronavirus-survival rates vary from 24 to 72 hours, depending on the packaging-material substrate.
  • Ensure tamper-proof packaging and communicate it to consumers. To build trust with the consumer, the industry needs to enhance consumer confidence by further improving tamper-proof packaging. Packaging needs to guarantee protection against contamination, particularly for food and beverages. But avoid creating more packaging waste. If this can be achieved, designs should print information to explain that products are safe and therefore, will build trust with consumers.
  • Develop new delivery mechanisms for packaging. The consumer’s demand for convenience has ignited during recent months. Therefore packaging needs to recognise this and begin to create packaging that allows for ready to eat fresh meals and smaller individual packs.


The pandemic is spurring drastic changes in consumer habits. Many consumers made online food delivery orders, as well as bulk purchases of items for home delivery. People have rapidly adopted and tested new channels, with a significant shift to online shopping. Lockdown measures around the world have led to so-called ‘nesting’ behaviour, with staying at home replacing visits to shops, spas, restaurants, and other activities. Therefore, in the future, many customers may find that their home is a more convenient and less expensive option to meet their social needs.

Although e-commerce packaging trends are not new, they have certainly intensified as more products go through the online channel. Therefore, packaging design needs to optimise products for e-commerce by preventing damage, boosting productivity and improving the consumer experience. For example, increasing technology for track and trace, as well as tamper-proof packaging to secure products.

Overall, the number of products passing through online stores is expanding. Many packaging designs will therefore need a major update, especially if they were initially intended for traditional retail channels.

The new normal will put packaging designs in the spotlight as evolving trends reshape the business. Designs will need to focus on e-commerce, sustainability, and hygiene, as well as the basics of cost, performance, and convenience. If companies fail to adapt, they will inevitably fall behind their faster-moving peers.