Five Hot Trends in Labels & Packaging

It’s summer. it’s hot. So what better time to catch up on what’s hot in labels and packaging? Normally these catalogs of what’s trending are compiled and reported near the beginning of the year, but we thought we’d be a little different.  Here are­­ FIVE trends we’ve identified that are getting traction here in the middle of summer 2021. So let’s jump into the pool, as they say, and find out what’s hot.

Hot Trend #1: Individual Appeal

If you look at any retail shelf, you’re likely to notice there are more options within brand product lines. In some cases, a LOT more. It used to be that you would go into a store looking for your brand of shampoo. You’d find it, most likely in the same package shape, size and color scheme you had used for years. Go looking for that same brand now and it’s just as likely you’ll be presented with a dizzying selection of package and label variations based on hair type, gender, age, scalp conditions, and scent. Brands are offering targeted products for a couple of reasons: More variety translates to more shelf space occupied and thus more consumer exposure. The increased volume of brand packaging is a larger billboard, increasing the chances consumers will notice and take a closer look.  Another reason is the attempt to ‘personalize’ the product. If I am a 30 something with a dry scalp condition, a shampoo proclaiming to be formulated for middle-aged consumers with dry skin seems like it was made just for me. It’s subtle, but the affect is tangible.

Hot Trend #2: Differentiate Boldly

What’s a brand to do these days with ever increasing competition for consumer attention in retail? As indicated in the previous trend, shelf space is at a premium, and there are many, MANY options for consumers to choose from. Increasingly, brands are making changes to stand out and “visually shout” for attention. Remember as a kid how alluring the candy aisle was in a store? No doubt much of the appeal was the seemingly endless display of sugary goodness, but that’s not all. The packaging was candy in itself – eye candy. The bright reds, oranges, greens, and purples drew you in just as much as the promise of confectionary delights. Now go down that previously mentioned hair care aisle and you’ll be confronted by a rainbow of bright colors and shimmering foil enhancements competing for your eye’s attention. Many brands are retooling their color sets to incorporate these vibrant hues into their packaging.

Hot Trend #3: Extending Brand Interaction

Increasingly, brands are attempting to forge closer relationships with their customers. Where brands used to measure success in terms of quarterly and annual sales growth, they now strive to ‘engage’ their customers beyond the sale. Labels are becoming a medium for storytelling, using devices like augmented reality imaging and QR codes to convey company values and other information that might help customers relate to them in a meaningful way.  Much of the label content is used to direct customers to social media channels and other online forums where brands provide even more information as to what they are all about. This trend seems to cut along a distinct age demographic, with younger customers who are more internet savvy much more likely to engage with brands beyond the sale. But since younger consumers will eventually become older consumers, it’s likely this trend will gain momentum.

Hot Trend #4: A Window to the World (inside the package!)

Let’s face it: People are generally curious, and they don’t usually like surprises. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that our next trend is all about the big reveal. Transparency in packaging is gaining steam, particularly in the Food and Beverage sector. Flexible packaging is on the forefront of this trend, aimed at allaying any consumer concerns that the product inside the package might not be as advertised. You’ll notice this demonstrated a lot (at least I have) within the chips and other snack foods market. A bag of tortilla chips will be completely decorated save for a round transparent area in the middle of the front panel. It’s saying “Hey, look at us! We’re all intact, not smashed into hodgepodge of pieces too small to accommodate your extra chunky salsa. Buy us!”  Well, they’re probably not saying that, but you get the idea.  Consumers like to know what they’re getting, and a window to the product gives them peace-of-mind. Again, this is often at a subconscious level, but a real reaction non-the-less. On the pressure-sensitive label side, clear substrates are being used to simulate a ‘no label’ appearance on glass packaging. This mimics direct print, and when it’s done well the effect is striking.

Hot Trend #5: Sustainable Staying Power!

It is here to stay, and that’s a good thing. Sustainability in labels and packaging is now a prime consideration as consumer-packaged goods companies develop their packaging strategies.  Not too long ago when the movement first started, many brands were sort of paying lip service to the concept of sustainable packaging. Not to say they didn’t care, but sustainability was not an urgent concern, given all the other market force issues they had to contend with. Also, there were not too many options available for sustainable constructions, and those that were available carried a price tag too high to be feasible. Material technology and pressure from socially conscious consumers changed all that. Today you’d be hard pressed to find any major CPG company without a thorough and detailed plan for reducing their carbon footprint and increasing sustainable packaging options by a specific date. A continuously growing number of common package and label combinations are now recyclable as a unit, or when separated by the consumer. And the future will see an increase in materials that can be composted and degrade naturally and rapidly if improperly discarded. This could result in a significant decrease in the amount of plastic in our oceans, and wouldn’t that be a welcome development?

The experts at AWT have their fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in label and flexible package construction, and they’re always happy to share that expertise to help your brand stand tall at retail. Find out how to add a little heat to your next project.

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