Gone are the days of the standard cardboard box. Against a growing appetite for personalisation, sustainability pressures and digital advancements, businesses are increasingly looking for much more from their packaging designs. This, in turn, has seen a constant influx of new packaging innovation, with more to come this year. Here, Jason Poxon, Packaging Technologist at Antalis Packaging, advises on the latest innovations to watch out for.

In today’s fast-paced, e-commerce driven retail environment, packaging plays a powerful role. Aside from protecting products, it’s an important marketing tool; often being the first thing a customer will see, it’s a way of conveying a brand’s essence. The choice of packaging can also enhance overall business operations. Get it right and it can help to increase warehouse capacity, optimise lead-times and reduce costs, all while providing a better experience for customers.

However, with so many new packaging options now available on the market, finding the time to keep up-to-date with the latest trends may seem an impossible task. So here are our predictions for the key emerging trends that savvy businesses should know about:

Polystyrene alternatives

As consumers become increasingly aware of the environmental consequences of excessive packaging, there will be a continued movement towards more sustainable packaging technologies.

Here, a good example is a new alternative to polystyrene. Polystyrene remains a dirty word in packaging – it’s bulky, difficult to dispose of and is not environmentally friendly. A number of cities including New York have banned its use for food packaging. Launched as an alternative to polystyrene for food packaging, Food Mailer is an all corrugate 100% recyclable pack that performs to the same standards as polystyrene. It’s over ten times more space efficient due to its flat pack structure and can be upcycled by the consumer into a cool box. It won the World Star Award of 2017 from the World Packaging Organisation.

No tape required

Geami WrapPak is one of the latest innovations to do away with tape. A combination of a patented die-cut kraft paper with a tissue interleaf paper, the Geami WrapPak High Volume (HV) converter expands the die cut paper to a 3D honeycomb structure providing a unique wrapping product. By locking the angled cells together, items are firmly wrapped and no tape is needed.

The converter can be placed at any packing station where individual items are packed using a protective wrap. Delivering the same protective qualities as bubble wrap, produced on demand saving space and a high quality natural product – Geami WrapPak has enjoyed rapid growth since its launch.

Digital technology

The packaging sector continues to experience big technological advances, particularly in digital printing. Digital printers are now able to deliver likefor- like capabilities with litho printing by offering added capabilities like personalisation. Beautifully designed, personalised boxes leave a lasting impression on a customer.

Augmented reality

Augmented reality is becoming more and more prominent, particularly in retail. From Coca-Cola to L’Oréal, multiple brands are embracing the marketing benefits of smartphones with augmented/virtual reality revenue forecast to hit $120 billion worldwide by 2020. The future of retail packaging is interactive and responsive, and gives power to customers by enabling them, for example, to scan an image on food packaging with their smartphone to access full environmental and sourcing data, a video recipe, or a chance to enter a competition.

Environmentally-friendly messaging Statistics from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs show 44.3% of household rubbish was recycled in 2015, down from 44.9% in 2014. Considering there’s a target for the UK to recycle at least 50% of household waste by 2020, it’s important more brands provide environmentally friendly packaging or, even better, encourage end consumers to recycle more. Not only does this ensure a business is positively viewed as eco-conscious, it also helps fight the war on packaging waste by encouraging others to have the same mind-set. Zara boxes promote that they’re made from recycled products as well as using the hashtag ‘#recycle’, actively encouraging customers to recycle the box once used.

A new take on storage

Innovations in packaging are challenging the traditional cardboard box. Notbox is a reusable, one-piece, collapsible box with lid and carry handles that can replace your corrugate boxes for storage. This multi-use box can be used as an alternative to singleuse cardboard boxes, helping companies and consumers reduce both packaging costs and carbon footprint with up to a 25% saving in carbon emissions. It also comes with zip or Velcro closures, a document wallet, and can be tailored, resized and branded.

Bespoke box designs

Bespoke boxes that fit perfectly around the contents are likely to grow in popularity. Not only do they deliver space saving benefits and waste reduction, they also help better protect the item that’s inside. Some of the most creative bespoke box products are those that have been designed to have an afterlife as a completely different purpose such as a desk tidy or a food tray, instead of being thrown away after use.

Amid changing times, more and more businesses are seeking packaging solutions which can support their efforts to be environmentally responsible, improve operational efficiency and leave a positive impression on their customers. Staying up to date with the latest packaging trends offers another opportunity to connect with customers and keep one step ahead of the competition.