Packaging design and Covid-19 – what’s changing

The recent pandemic has changed the megatrends in packaging design, with significant implications for the short and long term

The global pandemic has had a dramatic impact on people’s lives, and this has had repercussions on consumers’ perceptions of packaging. Until a few months ago, newspaper and internet headlines were dominated by worries about the invasion of plastic on our seas, by environmental compromises and the difficulties of managing recycling. All of this created consumer awareness about more sustainable lifestyle choices and habits. Then the pandemic took over and packaging, particularly single-use plastic packaging, has become the key element in ensuring health and safety.

So, it’s clear that today the value of good packaging is well understood, yet our concerns related to environmental sustainability have all but disappeared.

This is why now more than ever the whole packaging industry should evolve and move in the direction that can offer the best protection for the environment and the society we live in, by taking on a key role in this change.

There are a few considerations that ensue from this, such as how we can change the world of packaging after Covid-19 and how we can prepare ourselves to contribute to the creation of a more solid future that’s eco-friendly.

Greater interest in sustainable packaging

At the height of the pandemic, the media’s attention focussed on the value of packaging in supplying and delivering products to homes to ensure the health and safety of consumers. The consequence has been an increase in the use of single-use plastic, due to the general need to reduce the risk of transmission of a virus that is little understood.

Packaging is now recognised as one of the key tools in safeguarding products and consumers yet, at the same time, the increased use of plastics is raising awareness further about current consumer behaviour patterns and waste management.

As time passes, this will demonstrate a raised awareness of the true environmental impact of single-use plastics and it is likely that there will be a tendency towards the choice of products wrapped in packaging that can be partially or entirely recycled.  According to some research, even now consumers are already more likely to purchase products wrapped in eco-friendly packaging and, within the year, it’s expected that this will become an increasingly common requirement around the world.

A new vision of recycling

The current definition of recycling should be broadened and standardised. During lockdown, that has touched the whole world at various points in time, even consumers who don’t normally purchase online have used e-commerce services or apps for meal deliveries to their home. These numbers have reached unprecedented levels.

In the post-Covid-19 world, where it’s expected that home deliveries and online buying will remain high, emerging recovery technologies will be invaluable. It’s often difficult to recycle packaging. For this reason, it’s going to be all the more necessary to continue to protect products with functional and aesthetically pleasing packaging, as currently happens but with the added courage to create new components that can be completely recycled.

Discover Duo, the closure from the Collection range that can be separated and recycled

In the short term, the whole packaging industry will need to deal with a growth curve, characterised by research and development into more efficient ways of collecting, sorting and reusing materials and existing technology to tackle future consumer trends.

As forecasts predict that e-commerce and takeaway food services will continue to grow, ways of sorting multi-material packaging or identifying new ways of collecting pre-existing packaging need to be established.

We’ll need to set objectives and take effective action, but also introduce legislation and standards to widen the concept of recycling. Alongside this, we need an alignment between States and international organisations to include more collection types, promote innovation and help to support investment.

Reusable packaging will continue its growth, but in a different way

To reduce the risk of spreading the virus, a growing number of restaurants have suspended the use of reusable containers and in some countries, they have temporarily revoked the ban on using plastic bags. These changes have led many experts to ask themselves what the future of reusable packaging will be.

Realistically, aside from the initial unease, we can say that there’s nothing to fear and that reusable materials will be a growth opportunity. It will be sufficient to change approach and offer cleanliness and sanitation guarantees before being made available for reuse, with the potential for the creation of new business within this field.

This type of approach would reduce the risk of relying on consumer cleaning practices, by reducing the potential transmission through handling and by introducing a new development to the world of packaging.

Reinvention and action

While we look to the future of a post-pandemic world, we have the opportunity to assess and reinvent the environment we live in, by identifying structural weaknesses and committing ourselves to researching new solutions. To get started, we need to begin to look at packaging as a system and explore the impact of change to the supply chain. By doing this, we can bring together interested parties within the value chain to continue to create a shared vision of the near future.

Creating a joined-up strategy that recognises the value of packaging, but also emphasises how to deal with its weaknesses, could lead to economic growth for the whole industry. It won’t be easy but if we can align everyone around a strategy that’s based on principles that protect the environment and people’s health, it will be possible to increase efficiencies for the reciprocal advantage of society, the environment and the economy.

The concept of sustainable packaging goes far beyond just design. It demands innovative thinking, inquisitiveness, and the desire to move the circular economy forwards so that it can meet the changing demands of consumers and protect the world we live in.

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Interview with Adam Ryan Head of Pentawards

The gala ceremony to announce the winner of the 14th Pentawards Edition is to take place in October and Tapì will be an official sponsor for the competition.

The difficult times we are all living through may well change Pentawards plans. So, we decided to interview Adam Ryan, Head of Pentawards, to tell us how such an influential event is dealing with these issues and what its plans are to survive in the future.

  1. What are Pentawards and how did the competition come to be established?

Pentawards is the first and most prestigious global competition exclusively dedicated to packaging design.

Founded in Belgium, in 2007, Pentawards was created by husband and wife Jean Jacques and Brigitte Evrard. The couple who both had degrees in design, founded the design agency Carré Noir and the Desgrippes Gobé group.

In October 2016, Pentawards was acquired by Easyfairs, a global top 20 exhibition and events business which has an extensive packaging event portfolio.

Over the last few years, Pentawards has grown, it is now not only a competition, but it provides a core source of inspiration to connect the global packaging community. This is done through its annual gala ceremony, international conferences, winner exhibitions, networking events, social media platforms and books.

Our mission is to promote packaging design, add value and connect our beautiful community.

2. Pentawards are the highest accolade in packaging design. Including both sponsors and exhibitors, how many businesses are involved in this global competition?

This years competition has been another record breaking year, we received over 2,000 entries from 60 countries across 5 continents, with top contributing countries including Russia, Spain, China, the US and the UK. Nearly 400 entries have been shortlisted across the six main categories of the competition, which hold a total of 59 sub-categories.

We have 4 main sponsors UPM Raflatac (Finland), Reflex (United Kingdom), Shenzhen Baixinglong Creative Packaging  Co.,Ltd (China) and of course Tapi (Italy). Each sponsor is from a different sector of the packaging supply chain and we are very proud of our the global representation from our sponsors.

We also have strong relationships with globally recognised media partners, associations and exhibitions such as; the European Packaging Design Association (EPDA) based in Germany, Packaging Premiere (Italy) and etapes (France).

3.What does winning a Pentawards prize mean?

Winning a Pentaward is seen by many to be the highest accolade globally for packaging design. Winning a Pentaward can be the pinnacle of many creative careers especially as the international jury who chose the winners are their peers.

I can honestly say we have a sensational jury and we are continuing to drive for a more diverse mix within our jury, ensuring we have representatives from different nationalities, ages, genders, educations, skill sets, experiences, knowledge and ethnicities.

This year’s jury is composed of members from 18 countries, across 3 continents, including first-time representatives from India, Denmark, Armenia, Switzerland and Brazil. We have also expanded with the inclusion of a wide mix of design agencies, brands and cooperation’s which include; Lego, Nestle, Amazon, Microsoft, Shiseido & Facebook.

Being a Pentaward winner is more than just a trophy it’s the industry kudos and opportunities that follow. Winners receive invaluable exposure through worldwide press, live events, website, social platforms and media coverage. Winners are also featured in the world famous and best seller ‘The Package Design Book’ which is distributed to more than 60 countries.

Being a Pentawards winner can be life changing, it can help win new business, build confidence, connect with peers, launch careers and fulfil dreams. Having the opportunity to celebrate such great achievements especially on stage at our gala ceremony allows the winners to be seen by the global packaging design community.

4. How will future Pentawards events change with the new social distancing restrictions?

We are optimistic that we will hold our gala ceremony in October, however, the safety of the judges, staff and participants is of upmost importance to us during this challenging time. We have to be realistic and consider other alternatives just in case it’s not possible to hold a live event.

Around the world many large organisations and brands have opted to keep moving and holding their events online. Take Giorgio Armani who live streamed their Milan fashion show from an empty event space in the city or festivals going online, these events are have hit some big numbers and you can still communite and connect with your target audience.

Over the last few months, we launched a series of Instagram Takeovers hosted by top creatives and designers to help share some positivity, inspiration, and tips for those working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. This has worked extremely well and has actually reached more people than we anticipated. Taking this as an example, we could consider an online gala ceremony option.

Easyfairs will implement new safety measures to protect its staff, clients and partners at our exhibitions by introducing new rules depending on different government guidelines and laws. For instance introducing social distancing rules, strict cleaning measures, introducing more checks which will include temperature checks with thermal imaging cameras, extending show days and opening hours, one way systems and maybe restricting numbers. We currently have a system called ‘Easy Go’ which allows exhibitors and visitors to scan each other’s badges, so totally contactless and safe.

Whatever we decide, we will ensure it’s to the highest level, our commitment is to provide support to our community during this time and to ensure we continue to celebrate creativity in packaging design.

5. Do you think that packaging design industry will be negatively affected by global pandemic?

I’m an optimist and I generally see that the glass is half full not half empty, though in this climate it has been tough.

People are doing what they do best… evolving and adapting. Some amazing examples of businesses who are adapting to the situation are alcohol distillers turning their efforts towards making hand sanitizers or car manufacturers using their factories to make ventilators.

During times like this research shows that product innovation will slow but brand innovation will increase. So, brands will be finding new ways to engage with consumers and packaging will be a huge one. I think connected packaging will start to play a big part, especially with the opportunity to use QR codes to learn more about a product without touching it. Designers will design more for the home rather than the self.

From our Instagram takeovers I would like to share some great quotes from 3 packaging design experts which sums up the COVID-19 experience:

Steve Honour, Design Manager Europe & Africa at Diageo and Pentawards Jury Member:

“We are in lockdown, but our creativity isn’t”

Carolina Alzate Alvarez, CEO of OpenLab and Pentawards Jury Member:

“This moment of uncertainty is an opportunity to create something new”

Karim Rashid, Designer

“Design needs to regain that sense of feeling, aesthetic, and problem solving”

Mauro Porcini, Senior VP & Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo

“Real design is about us as human beings, our talent and ability to create something that is meaningful for the world and for others. Right now that’s more important than ever”

“The next decade of innovation will be the most consequential of all time”. This is a quote from Forbes in 2019 and with recent events this will speed things up even more.

Designers, brands, packaging suppliers /manufacturers have been really focused on sustainability over the last few years and this will be a key industry shaping trend, but it will be now be defined alongside hygiene and consumer safety concerns. During the pandemic there has been widespread use of ecommerce and many brands will need to step up whilst facing pressure with cost.