Food packaging BJ Ball NZ chicken wrap

The future of packaging


Being in the print and packaging business you’ll no doubt be wondering about the future of the industry. Specifically, the impact of sustainability and how it will measure against the pressure of consumer convenience and commercial imperative. Like us you’ll be watching how these competing pressures shape new innovations and what opportunities and challenges will arise.

If this is in fact true then you’ll be interested in the recently published research by Smithers and UPM – Sustainable Food Packaging in 2040. The study surveyed over 200 packaging professionals from across the globe and from throughout the packaging value chain to look at the likelihood and impact of key changes in food packaging.

The research suggests there will be an increase in fibre-based food packaging in the long term at the expense of single use plastics. There will also be an increase in reuse, recyclability and composting for end-of-life options. But the industry still expects to see some packaging materials sent to landfill and incineration in 2040.

The key trends identified in the research are:

  1. Consumers won’t tolerate the trade-off between sustainability and convenience.
  2. Sustainability will be a strict government mandate by 2040, if not before. Materials and packaging types that do not reach thresholds for environmental performance will not be available for use.
  3. By 2040 recycling, reuse and composting will all increase significantly but 21% of all food packaging will still find its way to landfill and incineration, meaning many brands will need to adapt their sustainable packaging targets.
  4. By 2040 fibre-based packaging will be perceived as the most sustainable packaging solution by consumers. Packaging innovations will enable smarter, more interactive and higher performance fibre-based packaging to succeed in new food applications.

The findings in the Smithers and UPM research is supported by the work done by Kissel + Wolf on the potential opportunities for growth in fibre-based packaging. Their analysis suggests a golden opportunity to increase consumer engagement whilst improving print performance and achieving sustainability goals.

They highlight growth and therefore key opportunities in food packaging, paper bags and shipping boxes. All of which, as they highlight, offer a unique opportunities to engage customers with untapped empty space available for messaging.

If you’d like to discuss any of the findings in these reports or the future of packaging in more detail  please feel free to give me a call.