Packaging Design & Industry Trends For 2021

Posted on January 26, 2021

Product packaging is often overlooked but incredibly important. Consumers might think they’re primarily concerned with the product underneath or inside a package. But the truth is: we really do tend to “judge a book by its cover.”

According to the major business publication, Inc., “95 percent of new products fail.” Why? Because “customers don’t have the time or energy to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the products in their shopping carts.” They need something quick to inform their decision — namely, your packaging.

So, let’s take a deep dive into packaging trends 2021 edition and explore what’s resonating with consumers worldwide. Keep reading to discover how you can engage your clients in the coming year and beyond!

Designer sketching packaging design conceptTrend #1 — Recyclability

In 2021, it will be more important than ever to prioritize recyclability in your product packaging and container design. Why? Because as climate change becomes an increasingly large idea and reality looming in the mind’s eye of many consumers, it drives consumer demand for brands to support and protect the planet in nuanced ways.

At the end of the day, by investing in recyclable packaging, you’re engaging in the form of business-wide multi-tasking. You’re prioritizing the health of the planet (limiting waste and subsequent pollution) and marketing your product to a wider base of eco-minded consumers.

Ultimately, it’s a win-win, and it’s a trend that will most likely only continue to grow and remain core to the many packaging industry trends 2021.

Trend #2 — Sustainability

Similar to recyclability, customers are also — now more than ever — interested in the sustainability of package design. This may feel similar to prioritizing recyclability, but here’s how this 2021 trend builds on traditional eco-friendly production processes.

Think of recycling as one piece of the pie, whereas sustainability acts more like the entire pie itself. So in terms of packaging design, sustainability certainly includes a recyclable package itself but also speaks to the idea of having a planet-minded business model throughout the entire packaging production process, from shipping products to logistics and beyond.

Practically, this could look like “right-sizing.” According to the experts at UPS, this is the process of “reducing packaging size by using a box that minimizes empty space while still protecting the contents adequately.” For example, think of candies or clothing items that come in tubes; these packages are “right-sized” for the products they carry — keeping them safe without using excess materials.

Ultimately, sustainability is part of a broader topic. And to stay relevant to packaging design trends 2021, it’s worth joining the conversation. So, keep your production processes green, clean, and good for the planet.

Trend #3 — Brand Clarity

While the first two trends listed above focused on the physical materials of packaging, the final three trends detailed in this article will begin to focus on how your packaging literally functions and, of course, how it looks.

First, let’s explore “brand clarity.” What we mean is, your packaging should provide your customers with a clear view of who you are and what it is that they’re purchasing. Quite literally, this could mean producing packaging solutions made with clear, translucent materials, giving consumers a literal window to view the products inside.

But in a more general way, brand clarity also refers to the modern consumer’s desire for authentic brands with authentic products. Again, the 21st-century customer doesn’t have time to read hundreds of words on a single package. They want to know who you are, what they can buy, and they want to know fast!

So, in 2021, don’t make it hard for your clients to know what you’re about. Put it right on the box, tube, or label. Be bold, be clear, and make your brand both accessible and approachable.

Trend #4 — A Focus on Story

Story-driven package design has been around forever, but its popularity comes and goes in waves. Moving into 2021, though (whether it’s due to COVID-19 keeping us all at home to binge-watch Netflix, social media, or something else entirely), there seems to be a real shift towards and desire for quality stories once again.

And from the big screen to your packaging, it’s important to create compelling narratives that invite your customers to join in your brand journey. Maybe it’s printing a nature scene with hikers and campfires on the shoebox for your hiking boots, or maybe it’s creating cartoon-style characters to brand your mailers with.

Whatever your product, be sure to create compelling stories to support and contextualize everything around it — including the packaging.

Trend #5 — High Expectations for Design

Over the last decade, customers have come to expect a curated aesthetic for every brand. It’s not enough to innovate and simply provide new products anymore. Now and moving into 2021, it’s critical that your products are packaged in a design that looks good and stands out.

But don’t let this emphasis on design intimidate you. There are plenty of aesthetics to choose from. So, have fun with it! Discover what your customers prefer and meet them where they’re at.

For instance, your packaging could be sleek, minimal, and modern. It could be loud, colorful, and fun. Or, it could lean into vintage vibes and draw on brand heritage or old-school design influences! There’s no wrong choice so long as you’re creating something that feels true to your brand while appealing to your consumer base.

In 2021, don’t be afraid to invest in a strong visual identity for your packaging.

What to Expect — Packaging Trends 2021

Remember: at the end of the day, customers really do care about packaging. And while there are many packaging trends 2021 to prioritize while heading into the new year, we recommend — at least as a starting point — that you focus on recyclability, sustainability, brand clarity, story, and design.

By staying ahead of the curve and incorporating the ideas above, you’re sure to win increased consumer engagement and grow sales. And as always, no matter your packaging needs, we’re here to help however you need. Simply call us at 908-272-4054 or contact us online. We look forward to working with you!