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Packaging innovation in a post-pandemic world

by Jackson B

By Sujan Shah, CEO, Rocaba Packaging Limited and Carrier Bag Shop

It’s been twelve months since the UK caught wind of Covid-19, sending shockwaves across the nation. Back in March 2020, borders were closed and business activity ground to a halt as governments across the globe tried to figure out what impact Coronavirus was likely to have on their citizens. Businesses operating through various tier systems and lockdowns have had to adjust many of their USPs and expand their digital reach. Covid-19 has forced almost all to make changes that no one saw coming.

As you might expect, eCommerce has increased exponentially in a socially distanced world. With sectors such as retail and leisure & hospitality going through prolonged periods of closure, many have had to find innovative ways to keep customers interested and sales activity going. Not only this, but with global distribution channels disrupted organisations in all sectors have had to make quick strategic shifts in order to adapt and continue serving their markets.

When it comes to packaging, we’ve seen a lot of change over the last year. Not only have buyers needed to respond to increased online purchases in the form of more courier pouches and boxes, many have had to shift their supply strategies to account for the potential difficulties of sourcing all their packaging from overseas. The shock of Covid19 will undoubtably mean that the many of these changes are either long-lasting or permanent.

Packaging in a post-pandemic world

eCommerce has, of course, become the norm for most businesses since last year. Not only this, but with the pressures of the pandemic at play, customers want deliveries to be made quickly, hygienically, and with consideration given to the environment.

Similarly, Rocaba has seen an increase in branded packaging throughout 2020. High-end brands that once traded on their product as an experience to have in-person had to move online. For example, one company we work with, which wanted to continue its afternoon tea service, designed and released a luxury box to ensure that the branding they were sending into people’s homes was synonymous with its restaurant experience. In a remote environment, the packaging and presentation must be designed to retain customer loyalty and ultimately the return of physical visits when time allows.

The final trend we have seen is one that was already in place before the pandemic set in, but has increased exponentially over the last year. This is to ensure environmentally friendly packaging is used. With the number of items being bought online and shipped internationally, more and more businesses are recognising the importance of reducing their carbon footprint.

Sujan Shah

Sujan Shah

Shifting supply chains

The resilience of packaging supply chains has rightly come under scrutiny during the crisis. Factors such as cost and just-in-time delivery models became less of a priority as supply chains shortened and consumer habits changed.

Back in March 2020, we saw an immediate need for European buyers to source localised packaging solutions. We also saw a shift to suppliers which could commit to holding stock, and placing greater importance on those strategic partnerships with local and regional packaging suppliers and distributors. Although it is unlikely, we will see a permanent shift away from global providers with cost still playing a big factor in where packaging customers buy from, we will certainly see more importance placed on local suppliers and particularly those with the capacity to hold stock.

Buying from Asia will continue as the lockdown lifts and global trade regains momentum, increasing the need for stock to travel across longer distances and upping its carbon footprint. Consumer and shareholder pressure may help persuade organisations to continue with their sustainability plans, despite additional cost. Again, a mix of suppliers and distributors, both global and closer to home, should help balance all the factors at play

Innovation

If one positive can come out of the crisis we continue to live through, it is the ability of almost all organisations to pivot their operations and quickly adapt to one of the hardest trading environments in our lifetime.

One of the most innovative industries we have seen during Covid19 has been the food and drink trade. With pubs, restaurants and cafes not knowing if they’re opening or closing at any given time, the core of their strategies has been around how they can maintain sales via take away and delivery options for their customers.

We have seen a huge increase in branded recyclable and reusable packaging demand from the hospitality sector. Food quality is at the centre of these companies’ interests, and yet, branding the packaging and the role of standing out to new customers has seen a major boost. The food and drinks industry will see these long-term effects more than others; whether customers are ordering more take away and delivery options or looking for hygienic alternatives to reusable cutlery and crockery, this trade will not only develop exciting branding, but developments in the style of packaging itself.

Looking ahead to 2021, and despite the continued challenge of lockdown across most of Europe, there’s a lot to be positive about. The moves towards more sustainable and thoughtful packaging alongside more diverse supply chains will, we hope, continue into the future.

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