Packaging Trends: Global Market Overview

See how the current global packaging trends are developing, with a focus on sustainability

July 9, 2024 – The global packaging market is undergoing a dramatic transformation, driven by a growing consumer demand for sustainable and transparent solutions. Here, we will explore the key global packaging trends, highlighting shifts towards reducing carbon footprints and doubling down on recycling.

Top Packaging Trend: Digitalized Circularity

Digitalized circularity is a key global packaging trend, with companies increasingly turning to connected technologies to ensure material traceability and legislative compliance. This packaging trend is driven by consumer demand for transparency and sustainability, as well as regulatory pressure to reduce waste and promote circularity.

With one in four global consumers frequently checking product information from connective packaging technologies, brands are incentivized to allow consumers novel ways to further understand the background of their products’ packaging. For instance, sustainability, transparency and traceability, and ingredient traceability are all vital concerns for consumers looking for more detail about their purchases.

QR codes are a popular method for consumers to access further information about their product’s packaging. Digital DRS (deposit return scheme) is another popular digitized packaging trend, incentivizing sustainability minded consumers to recycle. With digital DRS, consumers can be rewarded for returning their recyclable packaging, and brands can gain better insight into the life cycles of their products.

Digital watermarking is a packaging technology with increasing consumer interest, but a low amount of familiarity. The technology essentially allows for automated sorting of recycled plastic packaging, bolstering the circular plastic economy and allowing for streamlined re-use of plastic materials.

Reducing Emissions Through Minimization

Brands are searching for new ways to minimize their environmental footprint, and reducing material usage in packaging is a growing method. Consumers support this venture, with one in five saying that they are willing to pay more for products that use less packaging, and 23% saying that they have recently chosen products with reduced or minimal packaging.

Multiple products can already be seen sporting reduced packaging claims. For instance, Sϋdpack have begun releasing fresh fish products using their new lightweight, maximum-strength pack film, which weights 20% less than the former version, and 30% less than conventional packaging. Additionally, Owens-Illinois Glass has recently unveiled the Estampe wine bottle for the French market, with a reduced weight resulting in a 25% decrease in overall carbon commissions compared to conventional wine bottles. In the past five years, there has been a 36% increase in foods and beverages with less or reduced packaging claims.

global Packaging Trends

Cleaning Up Fast-Food Packaging

Quick service restaurants (QSR) have begun adapting to consumer desires for more eco-friendly packaging, shifting away from single-use formats in the process. Similar numbers of global consumers say that they have reduced single-plastic use, chosen reusable packaging, and are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging, all in the past year. With a substantial consumer interest in sustainable packaging, restaurants have an increased incentive to engage with this global packaging trend.

Starbucks is one global restaurant chain that can already be seen incentivizing reusable packaging, by providing a US$0.10 discount on beverage prices if consumers bring a personal reusable cup. Many other restaurants are finding innovative ways to reduce their packaging footprint; Pléta is upcycling palm leaves into takeout packaging, Notpla is collaborating with UK and Ireland sports venues to provide millions of seaweed-based foodservice packs, and PulPac is equipping Swedish coffee chain Da Matteo with Dry Molded Fiber takeaway lids. As sustainable packaging trends continue developing, there will likely be an increasing number of QSR engaging with innovative methods for reducing their packaging’s carbon footprint.

Honesty as an Antidote to Greenwashing

The clampdown on greenwashing is accelerating, with major companies making changes to align themselves with changing litigation. This is partially driven by consumer concerns over transparency, desiring sustainability information without misleading claims. More than 2 in 5 global consumers say they always pay attention to sustainability claims on packaging, and 42% of consumers say that they believe the environmental information on packaging is misleading.

This year, the European Parliament approved a directive cracking down on greenwashing. The directive prohibits the use of general environmental terms, such as “environment friendly,” “natural,” and “eco-friendly,” without verifiable proof. Greenwashing whistleblowers have also begun to step forward, calling out unsubstantiated sustainability claims on some products. Furthermore, some brands, such as Oatly are utilizing this opportunity to double down on their transparent image, publicly challenging other companies to publish their climate footprints on their packaging.

A majority of consumers say that they want simplified, score-based sustainability ratings on products.

Breakthrough Barriers

Sustainable barrier coatings are a key packaging trend, especially the movement away from plastic and towards fiber-based solutions. Popular packaging brand Mondi has already begun to push for more environmentally friendly solutions, expanding their range of high-barrier paper-based packaging. Crucially, these products are designed for recycling in paper streams across Europe.

Fiber-based packaging solutions with improved barrier properties have begun spreading across the global packaging market. UPM has switched out its plastic lamination with a fiber-based paper solution, Aquapak has equipped British Crisp Company with recyclable paper-based packs, and ProAmpac has launched a high-barrier fiber technology for thermoforming applications.

What’s Next in Global Packaging Trends?

Recycling has become a top packaging trend. Brands are finding new ways to incentivize consumers to recycle and are additionally increasing the production of products that can be recycled. While many consumers are willing to engage with recycling, some are less interested. Brands can look towards finding ways to further increase the ease of recycling. They can also investigate developing more incentives for consumers to recycle, outside of pure sustainability.


This article is based on our report, “Top Packaging Trends 2024 – Global” If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo.
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