Mintel Charts Course For 2016 Consumer Packaging

Consumer expectations around product packaging are driven by what people are conditioned to expect. When you can buy Coca-Cola with your name on it, and can customize your products using a mobile app, it's fair to say those customers would come to expect that level of engagement from other brands. 

According to Mintel’s new Global Packaging Trends study, digital print that creates hyper-personal experiences; clean-label messaging that enhances brand transparency and builds purchase confidence; eco-responsible packaging; and apps that support "mobile-engaged" packaging are among the things consumers will increasingly expect and seek from brands. 

Digital printing, such as is central to the above-mentioned “Share a Coke” campaign, will be even bigger as 20% of Millennials want custom or personalized packaging, per Mintel. The firm says nearly one quarter of Chinese consumers said they would pay more for personalized soft drink packaging. The study says digital printing will beat current numbers, which is about 10% of packaging decoration globally. Mintel says brands and package converters will take digital printing beyond limited editions and personalization, and begin to capitalize on its economic and speed-to-market advantages for mainstream package decoration.



There are also big changes in mobile-engagement at retail. Mintel says mobile interactions will account for 64 cents of every U.S. dollar spent in retail stores by the end of 2015. Forget QR and text codes, Mintel says brand owners are using near-field communication and bluetooth as key engagement technologies. The firm predicts the mobile environment will become the most important interface between consumers and packaged goods brands. Diageo, notes Mintel, has brought out liquor bottles with near-field communications tags for consumer engagement, brand protection and supply chain insights.

A couple of years ago, at least one comedy show made fun of Campbell's soup in a pouch program. Not so funny now. Mintel reports that 32% of consumers associate flexible packaging with "modern," and the category is seeing 56% growth. This coming year, says Mintel, innovative brands will be "looking to the next generation of rigid/flexible hybrids that offer functional and environmental benefits alongside great shelf presence."

Transparency has been on the upswing as a product-packaging trend for some time. Transparency as a metaphor, to be clear. Mintel says, with on-pack claims getting more and more complex, consumers want more information, but easier to understand. Especially in the food category, where, in the U.K., for example,  58% of consumers check ingredient information on product packaging, and 76% are concerned about the use of artificial preservatives. Thus, clear and concise is key, with info about ingredients, product attributes, and convenience and safety presented clearly and concisely. 

There was a time when you would never have dreamed that liquid dish detergent would be packaged in bottles made of cardboard shells. Now, companies like 7th Generation are doing just that. Mintel says that will become more common as brands go green, even if they aren't, like 7th Generation, "green" brands. The firm says consumers are putting the onus on brands to do so. Because of higher price and recycling logistics for a lot of consumers, the take rate is still low. Says Mintel, "Most consumers don’t have a real understanding of what to do with compostable packaging." 

The firm says two initiatives are getting traction: a focus on alternative package material sources, and catering to the 63% of US consumers who have stated that reusable and repurposable packaging is a key purchasing driver. "When product price and perceived product quality are equal, consumers will be increasingly turning to these eco- and alternative-use attributes as the deciding purchasing factor."

And one might call it the Costco effect: consumers are also looking for larger packaging sizes, while about 39% of U.K. consumers said they would like to see smaller bottles of alcoholic beverages, and half of "health conscious" snackers said they would be willing to try a new product if it comes in a small, trial-size pack. 

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