Although technology and sustainability loom, the eyes have it in the packaging world, as bold colors and creativity top the trends in 2018. 

We reviewed nine packaging trend reports from across the industry, laying out each trend from each article to uncover the seven biggest trends for 2018. 

As the Pantone Color Institute has previously reported, 80 percent of the human experience is filtered through the eyes, so the importance of colors and creativity is no surprise. However, some trends, like implementation of blockchain technology and clean labels, may also have longer-term effects in the packaging industry.

1. Bold colors

In all the pieces we read, bold colors were the most discussed packaging trend of 2018. Brands want to be seen as different from the competition both in physical stores and on e-commerce websites, so they’re packaging products in bright yellows, neon greens and shiny metallic sheens. 

An honorable mention goes to pastel and feminine colors, both mentioned often in this year’s slew of packaging trend reports. 

Bold colors might be the trend this year (such as Pantone’s Ultra-Violet), but in general, brands always need to pay attention to color trends, as color is one of the first things people notice about a product. In its 2018 trend report, Crowdspring cited a study that found people make a subconscious judgment about a product within a minute-and-a-half of seeing it, with 85 percent citing color as the main reason they buy.  

2. Creative and contemporary packaging

As The Dieline noted earlier this year, packaging is becoming the canvas for creative art and design. Text and brand logos now often play a complementary role to an active, artistic and unique design. 

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Mintel reports that this focus on creativity may be a ploy to draw younger shoppers to the center of grocery stores—think chips, candy and cereal—which many shoppers have been ignoring. Although 62 percent of U.S. consumers ages 55 and older shop in the center aisles, only 34 percent of consumers ages 18 to 34 shop there. “Packaging can strengthen these assets to make shopping the center aisle as appealing as the burgeoning perimeter to younger consumers,” Mintel’s Packaging Trends 2018 says.

3. Sustainable packaging

Consumers desire environmentally friendly packaging, and according to our round-up of all these trends articles, their desire will only continue to grow. Big-name brands have tried to meet the desire of consumers by promising more sustainable packaging. Coca-Cola, for example, has promised that 50 percent of its packaging will be made of recycled material by 2020.

There’s one big reason for brands to use more sustainable packaging: money. In 2014, Nielsen reported that 55 percent of global online consumers will pay more money for products and services made by brands that are committed to environmentally friendly practices.

4. Minimalist packaging

Mintel’s 2018 trends report finds that although consumers are more well-informed than ever, they have less trust in brands that fill product packaging with information. In France, Mintel finds that 39 percent of consumers have less trust in brands that put excessive information on food and drink packages.

In 2018, many brands will use minimalistic design on their packaging, making it easy for consumers to parse a product’s information. As Creative Bloq said in its 2018 trends post, “Minimalism works because it’s simple, and as such the designer has to find a way to make us relate to the packaging – and what’s in it – with the easy, broad strokes of our intuition.”

5. Clean labels

Consumers and government bodies both want transparency and clean labels. Brands should want it too, writes William Opie, general manager of Laetus, in Danaher’s 2018 packaging trends report, as transparency helps brands build trust and authenticity with consumers. “Between the consumer desire for transparency and government regulations to avoid counterfeit and faulty products, track and trace technology is pushing innovation within labeling and packaging,” Opie wrote. 

In its 2018 trends post, Industrial Packaging says food manufacturers especially must meet customers’ evolving needs to show recognizable ingredients. “This means the preservatives that are unrecognizable and generally extend shelf life should be replaced with packaging materials and technologies that can counter the removal of these preserving ingredients,” the post says. This also leaves room for advances in intelligent packaging as well.

6. Vintage packaging

Although bold colors and contemporary packaging are the year’s top trends, many consumers long for past styles and are drawn to vintage packaging. “Throwback designs give us a little something that was left behind: an essential part of our culture or memories,” 99Designs said in its 2018 design trends post.

The Dieline adds that “analog” will be a big part of this year’s vintage trend, saying in its 2018 trends post that “Consumers crave an offline experience, so vintage design has started to evolve into analog. It no longer references a certain era or time period but looks specifically offline, non-digital, and IRL.”

7. High-tech packaging

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are growing; The Dieline says that everyday items—paint cans, wine bottles—are now an opportunity for immersive AR or VR storytelling. 

Everyone is talking about the blockchain; Brand Packaging’s trends report says the blockchain will be able to quell human error.

The internet of things (IoT) is growing more connected by the day. As it grows, Ganesh Ramaswamy, president of Videojet, wrote in Danaher’s 2018 trend report that expectations for IoT are also growing. “The data collection, analytics and remote capabilities of IoT will all be essential tools for companies that produce packaged goods to stay competitive,” he wrote.  
None of these pieces of technology are ever-present in life or business yet, but in 2018, many packaging professionals will get a taste of the future. Once implemented, these technological trends will make the packaging process easier, making it easier and quicker to spot and implement packaging changes and the latest trends in their product packaging.

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