Food and Drink Packaging

4 Food Packaging Trends to Watch in 2022

At the end of 2021, Elephants attended the Packaging Innovations and Luxury Packaging Conference in Olympia London. Our learnings from the event and the panels have been on our mind well into the new year. With immense focus on sustainability (further pushed by post-COP26 initiatives), changing consumer needs and new legislations coming into play, we’re seeing interesting and different approaches come into the spotlight and particularly in the food and drink sectors.

1. Plastic to Paper

First on the list is not a recent trend by any means but we’re sure that there will be even greater growth in the paper packaging space for food this year. For example, Carte d’Or have recently made the switch to paper tubs, reducing their plastic use by 93% per unit.

Source: Carte D’Or

Replacing plastic with paper has, by no means, been a foolproof solution to plastic-use. Though businesses have shifted towards paper materials where possible, there have been obstacles with durability and also suitability to product, particularly in food use. Not to mention, traditional, non-recycled papers contribute to the issue of deforestation.

However, strides are being made through the production of paper made from bamboo which grows quickly and can be harvested without killing the plant; then there’s the option of wax-coated paper packaging which can effectively keep water in or out and preventing foods from drying out or going soggy. Ultimately, we would love to see paper become a viable long-term packaging option rather than just a slightly more planet-friendly replacement to plastic.

2. Secondary Use and Up-cycling

From gin bottles being transformed into candles to plastic packaging being repurposed into roofing, packaging is no longer just the discarded outer layer of the product we intended to buy.

Upcycling takes, what would be, waste and turns it into something functional or decorative, preventing it from being thrown away. Designing packaging with secondary use reduces the likelihood of it being discarded if the consumer has a new use for it without having to upcycle it themselves. Take Silent Pool’s gin candles as an example. Often noted for their beautiful bottles, they’ve taken emptied gins and turned them into candles worthy of displaying.

Furthermore, packaging designed with secondary uses can also send a clear message to the product user; that the business is thinking of the consumer and their needs beyond the product. What better way to keep your brand in the minds and homes of your customers?

3. Packaging you can eat

There have been innovations around turning food waste into food packaging but what about turning packaging into food?

Of course, this isn’t a viable option for many food and especially drink businesses given the concerns over hygiene and durability. However, there are some innovations out there which suggest that edible packaging could work. Take coffee, for example. 16 billion paper cups are used for coffee every single year – how could we reduce that number if the cup itself could be enjoyed alongside the coffee?

Cupffee has done just that. Describing itself as ‘the delicious, edible, and biodegradable cookie cup that redefines the sustainability of disposable cups’, the Bulgaria-based brand produces wafer coffee cups that can hold coffee without becoming a soggy mess. Once you’re done drinking, you can eat the cup! But if you don’t fancy that, then the cups are biodegradable and compostable too.

The idea of edible packaging has been around for quite some time but is still considered somewhat novel. But, we think it might become more common place in the years to come.

4. Zero Packaging, Zero Waste

Aside from looking at alternatives for food packaging, there has also been a trend of no packaging at all.

Companies have been looking to cut packaging where it isn’t need, particularly in fruit and veg. Fresh produce aisles are seeing less of plastic nets and punnets in favour of keeping it loose like a pick-and-mix. You might have also seen those reusable produce bags in big supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s.

Taking it a step further, we’ve also seen the growth of zero waste stores pop-up across the nation. These stores offer their wares with no packaging at all; customers simply turn up with their shopping bag (and food storage containers) and fill up. The premise refills existing containers and completely removes the need for packaging. See Ella Shone’s Topup Truck as a great example:

At Elephants, we’re eager to see what’s in store for the food industry when it comes to packaging. Whether that means finding alternatives or removing it entirely, we’re sure that the biggest and smallest brands out there will surprise us with different approaches this year.

What packaging innovations do you expect to see more of in the months to come?

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