Thinking Outside the Bottle

Secondary packaging is often the first interaction consumers have with a product, but it can be overlooked and under-valued by companies. Image courtesy of Berlin Packaging.

Secondary packaging trends and considerations.

By Moira Stein, Insights & Strategy at Berlin Packaging

First impressions can make or break a brand, and impulse decisions account for one-third of purchases. Secondary packaging is often the first interaction consumers have with a product, but it can be overlooked and under-valued by companies. There is a lot more to secondary packaging than paper cartons. It can take many forms and use many materials, including flexible pouches, paper tubes, rigid boxes, shrink sleeves, and carrier packs. Effective and innovative secondary packaging can improve shelf impact, create unique and memorable user experiences, elevate brand perception, and add value. Is it time to give your secondary packaging a second look? Here are some trends and considerations for secondary packaging development.

Create a Unique Brand Experience

Consumers are looking for more personalized and immersive experiences and are “willing to pay more for products that satisfy them on a more experiential level,” according to GlobalData. Packaging is a powerful tool for creating unique and engaging brand experiences. The unboxing process has become increasingly important, especially among younger consumers and social media influencers who post videos opening their packages. The #tiktokmademebuyit hashtag received 15 billion views, demonstrating the power of experience and discovery.

Secondary packaging can create enticing and memorable engagement that drives trial and promotes brand loyalty. Consider how the package opens – does it create a sense of excitement and anticipation? How is the product displayed – does it feel special and unique? Do the materials and finishes elevate the experience? How can you add an element of surprise and create delight? Seemingly small features can make a big impact.

Reflect Premium Positioning

Even amidst economic challenges, consumers consider some premium products – like alcoholic beverages and beauty care products – little luxuries that provide a sense of escape and relaxation. Better quality and more sophisticated products can help reduce anxiety and promote self-care. Secondary packaging plays a critical role in creating a premium perception of a brand. Unexpected and luxe materials like wood and leather can elevate a product and differentiate from the competition. Special touches like interior printing, tactile elements, and unique handles and closures can leave a lasting impression. And limited-edition offerings, exclusive packs, and collectible keepsakes can create a sense of prestige and specialness.

The Heaven’s Door Bootleg Series is a line of limited-edition, super-premium whiskeys named after Bob Dylan’s famous album collection. The packaging features a leather journal Inspired by Dylan’s journals filled with his artwork, sketches, music, and writings. The case opens to reveal a ceramic bottle decorated with one of Bob Dylan’s original paintings. Each year’s journal and bottle have their own unique custom design, allowing collectors to celebrate anew the creativity and craftsmanship of both Bob Dylan and The Bootleg Series.

The Heaven’s Door Bootleg Series case opens to reveal a ceramic bottle decorated with one of Bob Dylan’s original paintings. Image courtesy of Berlin Packaging.

Promote Sustainability

Today’s consumers prioritize sustainability, and demand for eco-friendly packaging is as high as ever. According to NielsenIQ, 92% of consumers say sustainability is important when choosing a brand today. Secondary packaging can play a significant role in demonstrating a company’s commitment to sustainability. Incorporating recycled or recyclable materials – like post-consumer recycled plastic, Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) paperboard, and molded paper and fiber trays – reduces packaging waste and improves circularity. Using packaging made from renewable sources, including bio-plastics, bamboo, and corn-based plastics, can help reduce carbon footprint. Right-sizing and light-weighting can drive packaging efficiencies and further reduce carbon footprint. And environmentally friendly label materials and inks can also make a difference.

Zoll LifeVest recently transitioned to a packaging insert made from 100% post-industrial resin pulp, eliminating the use of polyurethane foam. Lifecycle analysis shows that the new eco-friendlier package reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30%, cuts fossil fuel use by up to 40%, and reduces water use by upwards of 70% (based on 140,000 units per year, as compared to the original product).

Environmentally friendly packaging materials and inks, right-sizing and light-weighting can drive packaging efficiencies and further reduce a brand’s carbon footprint. Image courtesy of Berlin Packaging.

Interact with Consumers

Secondary packaging provides opportunities to create interactive experiences for consumers through digital tools. A recent GlobalData study found that 42% of global consumers are always or often influenced by how digitally advanced or ‘smart’ the product or service is (up from 35% in 2021). Younger consumers are especially interested, with one in four Gen Z and Millennials saying that interactive packaging is a key purchase driver. With information at their fingertips, consumers can better scrutinize products and brands before making purchasing decisions. Informative and interactive design provides reassurance, instills confidence, and encourages trial.

Secondary packaging with smart features like QR codes and near-field communication (NFC) technology can redirect shoppers to a brand’s website to view product tutorials, browse products, read reviews, discover ingredient information, learn about a company’s social or environmental initiatives, and more.

About the Author

Moira Stein has spent 20+ years working in brand marketing, with a focus on strategy and design. For the past four years, she has helped Berlin Packaging’s customers leverage consumer and category insights to develop strategic package design solutions that create impact and drive sales. Moira has experience across a variety of sectors, including food & beverage, personal care, and home care. Her clients have included large CPG companies like SC Johnson, Kraft, and ConAgra Foods, as well as small distilleries, wineries, craft breweries, and start-ups. 

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