Alongside almost every product you buy, there is packaging that has been designed and produced specifically to meet the needs of each application. Indeed, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), 141 million tonnes of plastic packaging is produced globally each year.
In the UK, we tend to recycle or discard this packaging without much thought (about 70% is recycled nowadays). But have you ever considered how developments in packaging have changed business approaches over the years?
The first types of packaging were essentially used to transport and protect products from the field, to craftsperson, to the customer. Clay, ceramic, tinplate, glass and wood were common, though packaging itself was very plain – after all, back then, consumerism and the idea of wide product choice had not developed.
In the military, glass and metal cans were sterilised and used to store foods for armies on the march, an innovation that was brought to the masses during the Industrial Revolution.
Packaging for marketing
While packaging was very plain until the industrial revolution, during the 1800s new manufacturing companies began experimenting with the use of branding and logos on the exterior of their product packages. Packaging was being used as marketing material, catching the eyes of consumers amidst increasingly competitive marketplaces.
Logos placed on packaging were developed as a result of this mass production to define the craftsmanship that had been put into the product. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the first logo was developed in 1876 for the English brewery, Bass. From here, logos and their use on packaging proliferated, being used as trademarks to show customers that products were the genuine article.
Packaging design and automation
Packaging soon became increasingly automated throughout the industrial revolution and remains so today. Packages in the 21st century are the product of intensive CAD software design to perfect the overall look, how it will be opened and how it will stand out from competitors. Once perfected, automated production lines are used to make packaging cheaply and efficiently en masse.
Sustainability in packaging
As environmental challenges have become more widely understood and consumers become more conscious of what they throw away, there has been an increased shift towards the sustainability of packaging.
This has led to many companies designing sustainable packaging alternatives. The use of completely biodegradable materials such as cardboard, waxed paper, and metal foils has reduced the amount of plastic in use. Using recycled materials in packaging has reduced the amount of ‘virgin’ materials that must be used. And lowering the weight of packaging has also been used to good effect, by lowering the amount of fuel needed to transport products to the consumer.
The future of packaging
As we look towards the future, it’s likely we’ll see even more sustainability in our packages, with moulded fibre packaging (similar to egg cups) likely to become prevalent. We’ll also see more smart packaging, which controls moisture or atmosphere levels, can be used to prolong product lifespans. Intelligent packaging can transmit data on product condition to shopkeepers. All these have the potential to make business more efficient.
What do you think packaging producers need to keep in mind going forward? Let us know your thoughts on packaging and its impact of business by sharing this article and tagging us below.