Key Trends Influencing Packaging in 2024

Heading into 2024, more consumers say they have a desire to support planet-friendly products, but flavor and affordability influence most food and beverage purchasing decisions. ©Tada Images – stockadobe.com

Food and Beverage Consumer Insights

By Rebecca Casey, Senior Vice President, Sales, Strategy, and Marketing, TC Transcontinental Packaging

Packaging is facing exciting innovations in the coming year, including meeting the evolving preferences of consumers. As packagers, we draw inspiration and innovation from trends like those outlined in Mintel’s 2024/Global Food and Beverage Report, to give us a better understanding of consumers and inform our future packaging development.

As consumers and marketers, we know food and drink must taste good and be worth the cost. As we head into 2024, with higher costs a reality, we expect to see a priority for flavor at affordable prices. The same goes for sustainable practices and sustainably sourced foods, consumers have a desire to support planet-friendly products, but cost is a consideration on their plate as well.

We can address both by considering Mintel’s recommendation to help meet consumers’ desires to live longer, healthier lives, balance their needs for health and pleasure, and unlock new conveniences from technological advances such as artificial intelligence (AI).

Here are key trends we expect to see in 2024 and what it means for the packaging industry:

Redefine aging by “debunking old” stigmas, and prioritizing healthy lifestyles

Mintel data shows Generation X seeks better quality of life through health and brands that consider health and wellness through nutrition, physical and mental health needs will appeal to the Gen X consumer. Packages and labels can highlight product attributes and formulations for aging issues such as heart and joint health, maintaining healthy blood sugars, and reducing inflammation.

Consumers also want personalized and customized packaging and labels with easily attainable information using emerging technologies. Examples include interactive QR codes or augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) which provide virtual product experiences to customers products before the purchase. Can also include multi-panel labels that can carry extended content that would be of value to the consumer.

Packaging and labels play a pivotal role in food and beverage brand storytelling, differentiation and convenience. ©lado2016 – stockadobe.com

Sustainability will sustain in 2024

Climate concerns are influencing consumers’ expectations that CPG companies will maintain sustainability efforts. In 2024, sustainability is not a “nice to have” any longer, as consumers assume and expect brands to operate sustainably.

Consumers recognize buying sustainably offers tangible benefits to themselves, as well as the planet. With this in mind, sustainability will sustain into 2024.

In addition, with rising costs, companies must find ways to deliver on taste, cost and sustainability. One way to do this is to include messages of sustainability in packaging and labeling. Packagers should tell it to sell it. If your packaging is sustainable or recyclable, include this message. Consumers are looking for it.

According to a recent Bain & Company report[1], “when asked to rank elements of sustainability they consider when purchasing products, shoppers ranked sustainable packaging as the second most important element, ahead of the product contributing to animal welfare, being organic, and having a low carbon footprint.”

Sustainable products leverage the benefits of flexible packaging, such as extending shelf life, reducing food waste, and providing product protection, while reducing its environmental footprint. In addition, consumers appreciate packaging solutions that are recyclable, compostable and made from post-consumer recycled (PCR) content.

A concern to keep in mind is even as consumers voice support for sustainability, their purchase habits prioritize affordability and taste. According to Mintel, in the US, 81% of grocery shoppers cite taste as a priority, while 14% cite sustainable sourcing.

Labels play a role in helping consumers make genuinely sustainable choices as well. This can include a line of traditional, compostable or recycle-ready structures for coffee, for example. Brands can use packages to communicate the attributes consumers are craving, including convenience, premium products, comfort, familiarity and a commitment to sustainability. In some cases, a reduction in overall packaging results in a lower packaging weight, which translates to benefits such as less fossil fuel or water consumption, and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional packaging.

Clear communication is key

Consumers’ knowledge of what is in their food is maturing, including concerns about processed and ultra-processed foods and drinks in their diets. With increased attention around “processing,” packagers and manufacturers will understand the growth potential for minimally processed products. Expect increased interest in foods such as

frozen produce, fresh bakery items or natural canned soup, and share advantages such as enhanced nutrition, longer shelf lives or reduced environmental impact, recommends the Mintel report. Packagers can work hand-in-hand with manufacturers to showcase product attributes and improve awareness of items that are long-life, shelf-stable or reduce the need for refrigeration or freezing.

For pharmaceuticals, having inclusive labeling will continue to be a product differentiator. Offering a variety of labels to meet specific needs in the marketplace, including inclusive solutions such as labels with tactile properties and Braille to support the visually impaired are examples of serving diverse audiences.

Technology helps consumers plan and prepare

As consumers become more comfortable with technology, it will play a bigger role in their shopping, cooking and planning, Mintel predicts.  

High-tech tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) will help consumers balance their busy lives and purchase decisions, including food and beverages. Brands should recognize consumers’ appetite for technology runs on a spectrum, and it’s important to offer options to meet consumers where they are. From a marketing perspective, consumers may experience AI or AR-generated ads that offer customized and personalized meal planning.

“Bet” on convenience.

With an aging population, easy-to-open containers, single-dose packaging, travel-friendly sizes, and resealable options will all see continued demand across segments. Brands can take advantage of this by marketing the convenience, which in return, drives repeat customers.

Packaging plays a very important role in building the identity and creating awareness of a brand and is often the first point of contact between the product and consumer. We know most consumers judge a product by its appearance and the package must satisfy their needs aesthetically, while sharing important details, on value and convenience for example. The package also has to be durable and able to withstand transportation, and be easy to use, store, and dispose of. By blending art, science and technology, packaging should accentuate the brand, protect the product, sustain the earth, and inspire the consumer.

Consumers have high expectations for CPG’s and brands heading into 2024 and packaging plays a pivotal role in brand storytelling. differentiation and convenience.

About the Author:

Rebecca Casey is the SVP of Sales, Marketing & Strategy for TC Transcontinental Packaging, an industry leader in the flexible packaging market. Learn more at http://www.tc.tc/packaging.

[1] https://www.bain.com/insights/sustainable-packaging-paper-and-packaging-report-2023/#:~:text=Consumers%20are%20increasingly%20aware%20of,are%20most%20willing%20to%20take.

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