Top packaging trends for 2021


Top packaging trends for 2021

December 14, 2020 | Education

If the end of the year has left you feeling reflective about all the elements of your business and how they work together, you might be rethinking how hard your product packaging is working for you.

Packaging designers take their cues from what’s going on in the larger culture, what consumers are interested in, new technology, and the competitive landscape.

We get out our crystal ball to predict the most significant design trends of 2021.

1. Beyond recyclable

Predictably, one of the biggest trends next year will be low-waste, low-plastic packaging. Although sustainability took a back seat during the pandemic as our perception shifted to see single-use as safer, there has still been an expansion of biodegradable shrink films, hemp-based plastics, and plantable wildflower paper. Globally, nearly eight in 10 consumers surveyed in an NRF and IBM 2020 study say they value sustainability, and over 70% said they would pay, on average, 35% more for eco-friendly brands.

As consumers become more informed about sustainability, we will likely see brands look at packaging more holistically. They may consider not just whether the product packaging is recyclable in local municipalities, but also how heavy it is in transit, where the source materials are from, the method of transit, how long the materials take to compost at home, whether overall materials could be cut, and the logistics of setting up a closed-loop system.

Patagonia recently redesigned the packaging for its baselayer products with minimal printing, a right-sized fit, and a stripped-back look.

(hat tip CaseMakes)

2. Delivery packaging that tells a story or has a voice

People have spent much less time browsing in supermarkets this year, and almost no time having in-store samples but online sales growth has been unstoppable. Brands are expected to try to make an impact in customer education by injecting storytelling and brand building into their delivery packaging.

3. Minimalism, done beautifully

(hat tip Trendland)

Minimalism delivers on the dual benefits of making products transpicuous when they’re posted on social media, and also seem sincere and authentic, two characteristics consumers are crying out for. Stripping back packaging for a minimalist look is a difficult design challenge; each element must be well-considered and complement the whole, and the designer needs to inject a visual brand using a small palette of ideas. Done well, it can be really impactful and is a trend from the last decade that will certainly follow us into 2021 and beyond.

4. Solid colors

(hat tip 99designs)

Can a brand own a color? Legally, the jury’s still out, but in our shared public consciousness, they just might. A distinctive all-over color will help some small businesses to build standout-ability on the shelf, a memorable brand, and even evoke a mood.

5. The endurance of unboxing

The theater of purchasing and unboxing rose to prominence on YouTube over five years ago as a type of ‘chewing gum for the eyes’ content. It has since been given new life through Gen Z favorite, TikTok. Whereas on YouTube, we’re enchanted by the luxury of the experience, the decorative features, freebies, or personalization, TikTok users are hopping on the trend to call out their favorite small businesses and to support independent artists. According to ScreenShot, “unboxing videos that contain the hashtag ‘#smallbusiness’ have a viewing average of 141,735 with over 279 accounts on the platform, therefore achieving a collective viewership of over 75 million.” We even see small businesses themselves creating unboxing content of their inventory.

What can we do to capitalize on the unboxing trend and make our products more postable? Use short prompts to encourage people to share their experience on TikTok or Instagram, use novelty or personalization to delight, amplify the user experience with smart packaging or go the extra mile toward sustainability by delivering a cool zero-waste solution.


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