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2022 Packaging Predictions

2022 E-Commerce Packaging Predictions

Posted 22 Feb 2022 by Tania Montesi, Global E-Commerce Manager

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred an unprecedented wave of growth for the e-commerce market in 2021. What does this mean for 2022? The work no longer stops at ensuring products get from point A to point B. If Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) brands want to stay competitive, they must create a superior experience for their customers using sustainable packaging. 

A growth in shipping comes with a larger volume of waste that tends to end up in oceans and landfills. As a result, sustainable packaging designs are becoming the chief concern for consumers, brand companies, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and packaging makers. Unfortunately, this market segment moves incredibly quickly, and it can be challenging to stay ahead of the latest local and national regulations, trends, and consumer expectations. As we look ahead to 2022, however, finding a balance between meeting consumer expectations, while working towards a more sustainable future, is crucial for producers, consumers, and most importantly, the planet.

The year 2022 is all about meeting consumers' rising expectations.  

Enhancing the Unboxing Experience 

Packaging itself has been elevated from simply the mode of transportation for products to a symbol of a brand's image and values. Think of the iconic Tiffany Blue Box®. It is instantly recognizable, enhances the product's value, and is the gold standard for experiential packaging. As consumers' expectations continue to rise, brands must find ways to replicate this type of experience through their e-commerce packaging. This shift in attitude provides an opportunity for packaging makers to go back to the drawing board and rethink packaging strategy for 2022, not just tweak and adjust what already exists. Improving the unboxing experience can take many forms. Factors like color, touch, smell, and ease of opening all have a role to play and, with the right balance, will create a competitive advantage over competitors. For example, Neville and More, a packaging supply company, developed an e-commerce approved top for bottles that ensures products do not leak in transit but is still easy for customers to dispense. 

Omni-Channel Packaging: "One Size Fits All" for E-Commerce and In-Store Packages 

Many large retailers rely heavily on backdoor-to-delivery methods via apps like Instacart or online orders to sell their products. In China, Ali Baba's retail grocery store, Hema, reported that 80% of their sales were completed this way. As a result, packages must be taken off the shelf and immediately delivered to the customer without compromising the in-store experience and aesthetic. It is also essential to consider the potential environmental effect of the backdoor-to-delivery strategy. Therefore, brands may need to consider implementing SIOC (Ship In Own Container) Packaging. SIOC packaging is an e-commerce industry term created by Amazon, used to describe packaging shipped to end-users without secondary packaging. SIOC is desirable because it reduces excess packaging, which supports the circular economy trend and helps make the consumer experience "frustration-free."

New Technology – Smart Packaging 

What is next after smartphones, smart TVs, smartwatches? Smart packaging. In principle, "smart packaging" describes packaging with extended functions. There are two types of smart packaging – active packaging and intelligent packaging. 

Active packaging interacts with the contents of a package, improving the shelf life or quality of the contents during storage. Intelligent packaging allows for "communication" with the outside world, giving producers, distributors and consumers access to in-depth verification and tracking information. 
Smart packaging is still at the beginning stage of development but is expected to reach a market value of $26.7 billion by 2024. Therefore, smart packaging has the potential to be a differentiating factor for brands when attempting to connect with their customers and enhance their experience.

Sustainability is crucial to meeting and exceeding customer expectations in 2022. 

Heightened Pressure for Sustainability from Governments in the Form of Legislation, Regulations, and Taxes 

Consumers are increasingly adopting an attitude of sustainability in everyday life, including the packaging in which their e-commerce purchases arrive. In addition to pressure from consumers, governments are responding with legislation, regulations, and taxes designed to drive change. Last year in Europe, a single-use plastic ban went into effect on several single-use plastic items, such as plastic straws and cutlery. This set into motion scrutiny of other types of plastics that may appear in e-commerce packaging.  The UK, for example, is implementing a plastic tax in 2022 on plastic packaging containing less than 30% recycled material. The United States is following suite. Under the Biden administration, the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act was re-introduced in March of last year by federal law makers. The act “puts the economic burden of recycling in the hands of CPGs and Packaging suppliers and halts all new investment in plastic production plants.” Some states currently have bans on polystyrene single-use items already, including void fillers commonly found in e-commerce packaging, and it is expected that more will follow shortly. This forward-thinking suggests that brands and consumers are becoming savvier and more mindful of throw-away culture, regardless of the package type.

Higher Focus on Enabling Mono-Material Recycling Streams Through Paper Packaging 

As governments continue to implement plastic taxes or consider plastic taxes on CPG brands and packaging makers who continue to incorporate plastic into their packaging, there’s an increased need to remove plastic from e-commerce packaging design and utilize mono-material, fiber-based packaging. A mono-material package is comprised of a single type of material, and having solely fiber-based e-commerce packaging leads to improved recyclability in numerous ways. For example, packaging makers no longer rely on consumers to remove the plastic opening tear strips and place them in the garbage while putting the rest of the package in the recycle bin. It also eliminates the fear of remaining plastic contaminating fiber during the recycling process. By having a single-source paper package, packaging makers and CPG brands potentially increase the amount of usable fiber recycled into new paper goods. Additionally, this strategy may yield more premium bails of recycled paper that can be used to create higher-quality paper.

Increased Usage of Water-Based Coatings 

As packaging continues to trend toward more sustainable materials like paper, it is essential to remember that consumers expect to receive their purchases in premium condition. However, the harsh supply chain can make it difficult for products to arrive safely while preserving packaging aesthetics. According to a Smithers Future of Functional Barrier Coatings 2020 report, water-based barrier coatings have a global CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 9.7% from 2019-2024. Water-based barrier coatings help strengthen e-commerce packaging to withstand a wide array of conditions, including rain, snow, and humidity, without compromising the unboxing experience or recyclability. In addition, these coatings may provide heat sealability of packaging and will be a critical factor in the transition from plastic to paper packaging. They may even provide an oxygen barrier that eliminates plastic void fillers inside of packaging.

Where does H.B. Fuller fit in to all of this?

Designing sustainable packaging that also creates a premium customer experience can seem overwhelming, but H.B. Fuller is here to help develop innovative e-commerce packaging designs. We have a full range of e-commerce packaging solutions, including adhesives, coatings, starch additives and tapes, and our experts are actively working on sustainable and circular designs to create tomorrow’s packaging solutions.

Our Advantra® adhesives are engineered for e-commerce packaging and provide superior bonding. Our hot melt pressure-sensitive adhesives are also designed to be used in conjunction with release liners for easy and fast envelope and case sealing.

Our Sesame® Tapes can help enable opening, closing and returns in secondary packaging. Our team of engineers also designs the equipment for tape dispensing and will assist you in with installation, engineering, and maintenance.

Finally, our full range of H.B. Fuller Evolution water-based coatings provide moisture-resistance to packaging to help withstand the harsh e-commerce supply chain and provide heat sealability of fiber-based e-commerce packaging.

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