3 Food & Drink Packaging Trends You Need to Know

Packaging is the first thing that a consumer will see and it can ultimately influence their decision to purchase. We’ve compiled everything we learned from IFE 2023, so you can be up to date on the latest in packaging!

The Elephants attended the International Food & Drink Event in London and listened to some insightful speakers on some of the latest packaging trends and concerns.

Here are our Top 3 takeaways from this year:


Before starting on your packaging design, it’s important for you to really understand what your consumer is looking for.

  • Are there unique visual cues you should be considering?
  • What colourways appeal to your audience?
  • Should your packaging follow an informational or instructional route?

Questions like these will help build a good understanding of design that connects to your audience.

Brett Goldhawk Founder of DesignHawk, mentioned how solid consumer insight produces some of the best design work. Blindly following trends in the hope something sticks means risking blending in with the crowd or even not connecting with your intended audience.

An example of what not to do:

In 2009, Tropicana decided to update their existing packaging design for the North American market.

Tropicana Packaging

This new packaging design was rejected by many Tropicana’s consumers. In fact, Tropicana had to revert to the original version of the packaging to satisfy its audience. It’s likely that with some consumer research this could have been avoided!

What your brand should do:

Avoid this with some research beforehand so you can understand who you’re designing for. By using this information to inform your design, you can create packaging that truly resonates with your target audience.


65% of consumers want to buy from brands that advocate sustainability. So, companies are under increasing pressure to meet this and we’ve seen a lot of traction with ‘green’ packaging.

However, only about 26% of these consumers actually buy from these brands.

As Creative Director James Pryor pointed out, while eco-friendly-led packaging is desirable, it may not always be realistic. Despite widespread environmental awareness through broadcasted media like ‘Blue Planet’, many still don’t actively contribute to lowering their carbon footprint.

Even so, Strategy Lead James Harmer hypothesised that consumers will still have new expectations for packaging. After sitting in on the panel ‘Beverage cartons – a low carbon circular solution but is it right for you and your shoppers?’ it became clear what the core issue is. A lack of simplicity!


What your brand should do:

Consumers feel they can’t act as environmentally friendly as they want to, simply because they’re confused about best practices!

It’s worth considering how to simplify recycling communications and make them as clear as possible. For example, Elopak Director Martin Shaw suggested, colour coding packaging to align with the appropriate recycling bins to lessen consumers’ cognitive effort.

But how can your brand balance Consumer v. Environment?

‘Consumer first’ and ‘Eco-friendly’ packaging may not overlap so easily in terms of design. Too much customer focus can result in an ego-driven design brief, while too much environmental focus can alienate the consumer.

The answer is consumer research! With solid research, you can strike the correct balance and design packaging that is appealing to your target audience and environmentally conscious.


Packaging can now impact brand experiences by creating an immersive experience for customers. We’ll likely see the combination of tech and packaging rapidly gaining momentum. QR codes, augmented reality (AR) and NFC tags are becoming increasingly common in interactive packaging.

By scanning these, consumers can access additional information, exclusive offers or special promotions. Not only does this create a more engaging and memorable experience for consumers, but it can help your brand differentiation.

Wine brand 19 Crimes did this with their AR app. By scanning the image on the bottles, the app brought the characters to life and shared their stories of rule-breaking!

19 Crimes Packaging

What your brand should do:

Speakers at the IFE mentioned that we could eventually see packaging design that purely exists in a digital sphere. Designs may only be featured online to entice a purchase and once the product is ordered it will arrive in a standard cardboard box. It’s an innovative way to strike the balance between creating a visual impact without compromising on sustainability.

With overconsumption increasingly becoming an issue, if your brand can show a proactive approach without sacrificing product quality or experience – you’ll stand out!

The bottom line…

Incorporating research into the early stages of your packaging design can let your team begin with a better understanding of your target consumer. Your data-informed designs will be more effective and resonate with your audience than going with a ‘gut instinct’ or even following what other brands in your category are doing.

By combining the creativity of your designers with the objectively informed data you gain from research, you can ensure your final product meets the visual and functional requirements you have!

Thinking of refreshing or starting your packaging design?

If you’re thinking about leading your next packaging refresh with consumer research we’d love to chat about how we can help. Have a look at what that would involve here.

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