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Food Packaging Trends in 2021

Notable Trends Across the Food and Beverage Industries

Packaging Trends

As we bring this calendar to a close, it is a perfect time to examine burgeoning and prolonged trends from the past year and look forward to how they might continue to affect the packaging industry in 2022. While there are a number of new ideas emerging in packaging design, such as minimalist graphic design, one of the biggest effects of the pandemic is a number of accelerated trends that were already underway such as sustainable packaging and improved efficiency thanks to technology.

Sustainability as a Top Priority

Over the past decade there has been a cross-industry push for sustainability, both as climate change has become a hot button issue and manufacturers are seeing lower costs from recycled products.

As individual portion sizes have been rising in popularity, some companies are focusing on efforts to keep their packaging as green as possible. Freshly, a meal delivery service company, is lessening their environmental impact by manufacturing boxes, plastic meal containers and cardboard sleeves that are 100% RECYCLABLE. The recycled denim insulation used to keep meals at the correct temperature during transportation is 85% BIODEGRADABLE.

Packaging Trends

In the beverage industry, Coca-Cola is leading the sustainability charge with prototypes for PLANT-BASED bottles. Along with an ambitious Net Zero carbon goal by 2050, executives at Coca-Cola have emphasized their aim to develop sustainable products for the entire industry, competitors included.

One design trend we’re keeping an eye on is EDIBLE PACKAGING. This intriguing zero-waste alternative uses raw materials extracted from algae, natural dyes and substances like cornstarch. In addition to eliminating waste, edible packaging reduces reliance on fossil fuels. While the edible packaging industry is growing at a substantive rate, mainstream use is still a long way off.

Memorable Graphic Design Choices

Even if graphic design isn’t your passion, it is an unavoidable facet of daily life. Store shelves are lined with mini-billboards competing for shoppers’ attention. Designers are trying a variety of ideas in order to stand out from the crowd.

Packaging Trends

Ironically, one of the ways package designers are standing out is with MINIMALIST DESIGNS. In order to avoid saturation, simple one- or two-color graphics paired with sans serif text are rising in popularity. These clean designs are favored by the millennial generation who are often overwhelmed with a constant barrage of media. Additionally, minimalist packaging art provides an opportunity to save on ink and printing costs. That’s what we call a Win-Win!

Another packaging design trend, increasingly enjoyed by millennials and Gen Z, is PERSONALIZATION. In fact, according to Deloitte Consumer Review, over 50% of people under the age of 40 express desire for personalized products. OreoID, an online portal where customers can personalize the color, dip, sprinkles, flavor and even add text or an image to the Nabisco cookies, is just one example of major brands creating unique one off products for individuals.

Improvements in Technology

The most common technology that you should be making sure to include on all packaging today is QR Codes. These modern barcodes are free to generate and are readable by all smartphones. A quick scan of the package by a consumer can lead them to a nutritional information, safety guidance, expiration information or simply your company’s website. This is a great way to implement brand storytelling at little to no extra cost.

Packaging Trends

Since the arrival of social distancing and an increased reliance on ARTIFICIAL INTELLGENCE supported warehouses, there is an immediate need for machines to quickly scan, move and sort products. This is especially true of food products with varying expiration dates. Through the use of RFID codes, QR codes, and traditional barcodes on the exterior of packages, manufacturers are able to move products faster than ever.

In looking towards the future of packaging design, let’s finish by going back to the 2017 Super Bowl. At the event, Tostitos partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Uber to create a tortilla chip bag that contained a sensor that would alert holders if they were too intoxicated to drive. If they were safe to drive, the bag would glow green, and if they were not a red steering wheel would flash on the bag. These bags were never commercially available, but give a peek into the creative possibilities opening up to the world of packaging as technology becomes lighter, more compact and less expensive.


GCB Solutions has the experience and the resources to help you through any shifting trends in packaging or other issues you may be facing. Whether you are just beginning the design process or looking to make that final push to launch, we can help.

Call us at (904) 263-2804 or schedule a free consultation, today!


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