With endless products to choose from, food companies must clearly display an item's features without overwhelming consumers. 

From updating label designs to reforming sustainability standards, a dynamic list of packaging trends has been released by Mintel. In the report “Global Packaging Trends 2018,” the consumer-research firm detailed consumer expectations and opportunities for manufacturers. 

According to Mintel, the five trends outlined encompass broader themes of preservation, automation, aesthetics, sustainability, and trust, providing a full view of the global packaging industry in 2018. 

"Our packaging trends for 2018 reflect the most current and forward-looking consumer attitudes, actions, and purchasing behaviors in both global and local markets," said David Luttenberger, global packaging director, Mintel. "Such trends as those we see emerging in e-commerce packaging have stories that are just now being written. Others, such as the attack on plastics, are well into their third or even fourth chapters, but with no clear ending in sight."

Clean label 2.0
Transparency will continue to play a large role in consumer purchasing decisions in 2018. Balancing product benefits and branding will be a key challenge for companies.

According to Mintel, 39% of French consumers feel that excessive information on food and drink packaging can make it hard to trust a brand. Food companies must eliminate excessive callouts and distracting design elements if they want to engage with purchasers and build brand loyalty. The report recommends implementing an “essentialist” design aesthetic that provides consumers with enough information to make an educated purchasing decision.

Packaged planet
Decreasing food waste will continue to be top-of-mind for global consumers as many attempt to reject “throwaway culture.” According to the report, 50% of U.S. grocery shoppers believe that the right packaging can help reduce food waste, and 56% of Brazilians are actively trying to reduce food waste at home. Manufacturers can tap into this growing sentiment by highlighting packaging features that extend shelf life or promote food safety.

Declining interest in processed products — especially among millennials — is creating a need for innovative product and packaging design that can draw shoppers back to the center aisle.

While supermarkets are leading the charge by redesigning store layouts, brands must help lure customers back by packaging items in intriguing formats with creative visuals. Transparent materials and modern designs can help update a brand’s image, and recyclability or unique shapes can draw in younger consumers who don’t typically peruse the center aisle. 

Sea change
Estimates by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation reveal that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, highlighting a need for food companies and packaging suppliers to increase sustainability efforts.

According to Mintel, “committing to the use of recycled content in all packaging can help drive the circular economy, reducing ocean plastic by ensuring an efficient route for packaging from the consumer back to the producer.” Increasing the use of recycled plastics and collecting waste plastics from the sea can help position manufacturers as environmentally conscience while also making an impact consumers approve of. 

Unparalleled access to online shopping is shaping how consumers shop and manufacturers design and source packaging materials. According to eMarketer, e-commerce sales are forecasted to reach $4 trillion globally by 2020, representing nearly 15% of total global retail sales.The convenience of online shopping is a definite advantage for consumers, but they still expect more once the product arrives at their doorstep. Lackluster packaging can lead to a disappointing interaction with the product and decrease the likelihood of repeat purchases. “Now is the time for brands to consider how packaging can alleviate, if not eliminate, consumer frustration with over-packaged and even under-branded goods sold online,” the Mintel report said.