How Has Packaging Evolved After a Year with COVID-19? 4 Key Trends in the Sector

20 Apr 2021

A year after the global spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus forced European countries to announce a general lockdown, consumer habits have experienced a dramatic transformation at every level. Businesses and consumers have changed forever, and with them, the design and manufacture of the packaging that contains the products. How has packaging adapted to the new normal?

4 key trends for the new normal in pharmaceutical and cosmetics packaging

At Essentra we have identified four trends that have developed at the same time as the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Values of hygiene and safety are added to packaging’s sustainability

Even though hygiene and safety displaced sustainability among the customers’ highest priorities at first, the demand for sustainable packaging was also strengthened as more information became known about the relationship between damaging the environment and the appearance of global pandemics.

In fact, according to a survey carried out by McKinsey among German and English users, more than 60% of the participants stated they considered more carefully whether their online purchases’ packaging was recyclable and more respectful with the environment than they may have been before COVID-19. Therefore, it is essential to put sustainability, hygiene and safety together during the design process of packaging for it to be adapted to the new normal.

2. Having packaging that is ready for the online channel is a must

It is not at all a new trend in the packaging industry. A study carried out by McKinsey in 2019 assessed the shopping habits shown by cosmetics’ consumers, finding digitalisation was already apparent, especially among younger users, who were more accustomed to browse and buy online.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the rate of digitalisation in every sector. Thus, the increase in online shopping has a direct impact on how e-commerce packaging is created, since it is the brands’ first point of contact with the users. The goal is to attract new customers the same way physical shops, trying to increase the online visibility of product unboxings, and fostering digital interactions between users and brands through social media networks and apps.

3. The union between technology and packaging is the way to reduce operative costs

The initial shock caused by COVID-19 affected healthcare and logistics, and the consequences of the disruption in the usual merchandise flux for the supply chain still persist today. By integrating technologies such as RFID or advanced codification systems on the packaging’s labelling, we can keep close control on the stock and the traceability of the products, thus preventing problems like the ones we lived through back then.

Reducing risks makes businesses more efficient and contributes to cutting costs, a necessity demanded by the current situation. In fact, during the design process for pharmaceutical or cosmetic containers, it is advisable to bear in mind the goal of saving time when packaging the final product. Then the manufacturer can increase the production processes if the opportunity for emerging business comes along.

4. When adapting packaging, flexibility is key

Businesses with a greater ability to react quickly have weathered the crisis better because they have been able to adapt to the new needs that have arisen. For example, COVID-19 has made it more difficult to track treatments for some chronic diseases, which are increasingly numerous. Consequently, laboratories have made an additional effort to guarantee patients are administered their drugs correctly, by publishing extra information on their webs and through packaging with more detailed instructions, among other measures.

On the other hand, during the pre-COVID-19 time, the tendency to take home treatments for certain diseases already existed, but the pandemic has definitely given it a boost. In order to adapt pharmaceutical packaging, the folding cartons need to match the new reality, by including mechanisms that ensure appropriate adherence to the treatment while giving the patient certainty that the administering has been correct.

Packaging, essential in the brand-client relationship after the pandemic

In a world where physical contact has been limited to the maximum, packaging continues to be that tangible link between brands and their customers. Have you adapted your company’s packaging to the trends that are being set for the new reality? If you are still not there yet, at Essentra we can help you, which is why you are more than welcome to contact us.