What Will 2020 Hold for Packaging?

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Globally, the packaging industry is a huge economic contributor which is set to reach a market value of over £820bn. Like with every other industry out there, the packaging industry is constantly evolving due to customer demand, innovations and technology. Here are five areas of packaging where we expect to see development in 2020.

Environmentally friendly packaging

This is a trend that has been growing for some time and is set to grow into 2020 with the ever-increasing awareness of consumers of the effects that pollution is having on the planet and consumer demand for manufacturers and retailers to be more environmentally friendly. In 2020 we can expect to see more business taking influence from the past with an increase in the use of items made from Kraft paper such as gummed paper tape, mailing bags, and protective padding as it is easy to recycle can often be made from recycled paper and will naturally degrade into biomass. Gummed paper tape has seen a major come back in recent years with large companies such as Amazon switching to it due to its great strength, temperature resistance and tamper-proof properties on top of its environmentally friendly merits. As well as environmentally conscious individuals making the decision to use more environmentally friendly packaging, part of the move is likely due to government initiatives and policies such as the upcoming tax that is planned on plastic packaging that is made from less than 30% recycled material.

We can also expect to see more environmentally friendly packaging in the form of new materials developed from sustainable sources such as bioplastics and more effective biodegradable and compostable alternatives to plastic. More and more companies are seeking to eliminate difficult to recycle plastics to help reduce the chances of their plastic packaging going into landfill. The problem with black plastics (such as microwave meal containers) is that they are coloured with carbon black pigments which make it difficult to sort with the infra-red technology that is widely used at plastic recycling centres. This has led to many companies such as Waitrose to announce they are eliminating black plastic from their own brand food packaging.

Paper Loose-Fill

Digital printed packaging

Traditionally if you wanted custom printed boxes you would need to have them made with flexo printing methods that transfer ink from a roller onto the box or packaging. This would require you to pay for tooling costs and would mean you need to order large quantities to make it worthwhile. Digital printing doesn’t require plates to be created meaning that there is a quick turn around on jobs, allowing for smaller runs to be printed. This makes it attractive for smaller businesses that want to make use of custom printed packaging without having to commit to purchasing large amounts of stock in one go which can be quite costly. According to the Smithers Pira organisation, the value of digital printing was 14.6% of the print & printed packaging market in 2015 and is set to rise to 18.4% in 2020.

E-commerce packaging

With E-commerce becoming one of the most popular ways to purchase products these days, it’s no surprise that we expect to see a growth in the use of packaging optimised for use in postal channels. With the long distances that many products travel to get to their destination, many companies are looking for ways to save on their postal costs. By reducing the size and weight of parcels, companies are often able to pay less of their postage due to being able to fit more items in delivery vehicles as well as saving money by using less fuel to transport them due to less weight. This is a win-win as it also makes the packaging more environmentally friendly due to less CO2 being produced and less packaging to dispose of for the customer. With e-commerce businesses receiving orders, picking the product, packaging it and sending it out, many are looking at ways to make their processes more efficient. Ways in which this can be done is by using packaging that reduces the time to construct and seal such as boxes that have built-in sealing strips, protective material and crash lock bases.

E-commerce Parcels

Flexible packaging

Flexible packaging is becoming increasingly popular and replacing more traditional and rigid forms of packaging. Flexible packaging can offer many advantages over their counterparts such as being easier to store, transport, tailor to the product and often cheaper. One type of flexible packaging that is seeing more use is air cushion packaging as it comes in flat rolls which are quickly inflated by a machine when needed. When comparing this to bubble wrap (which although physically flexible still comes assembled) the air cushion rolls takes up much less storage space and are easier to transport as most of the bubble wrap is made up of air.

Smart packaging

Smart packaging is packaging that can have different functions but is usually informative, improves convenience and enhances the product experience. Smart packaging can often fall into two categories, the first being active packaging – which tend to deliver functional features such as controlling oxygen and moisture levels and intelligent packaging which communicate features or changes in a product and allow interaction. Intelligent packaging is already being used in the form of QR codes but is expected to grow into 2020. This form of intelligent packaging enables smartphones to scan them so customers can access more information and leave feedback for certain products through their phone. Smart packaging is also often used for food items to keep the contents fresh for longer and tell the customer when they are no longer safe to eat. The benefit of this over traditional printed dates is that while a food item that needs refrigerating could be left out of to spoil and put back in a freezer/fridge and still be alright to eat according to the date. With reactive labels, they often take into account changes in temperature helping to reduce the risk of consuming spoilt food.


Now that we are coming into the fourth quarter of the year it is a good time for businesses to start looking forward to 2020 to see what the future is likely to hold for the packaging industry in order to keep up to date with the latest customer trends and technological advancements. By doing so, you will be well prepared to meet customer demands and maintain an advantage over your competition.

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Sarah Hickson

With more than seven years experience as a member of the Davpack sales team, there are few who know more about the range of packaging materials we sell than Sarah. She recently left the company to become a full-time mother, but still maintains regular contact with her former colleagues. As well as sharing her own accumulated wisdom and experience on the blog, Sarah is looking forward to passing on stories from the front line of packaging sales. Davpack

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