Image: The consumer experience was a key topic discussed at the 2016 Packaging Innovation Conference. Photo: courtesy of inxti

The annual Packaging Innovations conference returned to the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre (NEC) on the 24 and 25 February, accompanied by world-class topical speakers, exhibitors, and visitors from around the globe.

While representatives from companies, such as M&S, Innocent Drinks, and John Lewis offered insights into the latest developments in the packaging industry, visitors had a chance to witness emerging products and technology set to enter the market. From multi-use packaging to faux-couture; we wrap up the trends that stole the show.

Dual-purpose packaging offers solution to waste products

"Notable displays included Ragbags, an eco-friendly shopping bag."

Responsible packaging and waste reduction were key topics discussed at the NEC, specifically how companies could do more to make their packaging more environmentally friendly. In the EcoPack Theatre, seminars ran throughout both days discussing the role of plastics, litter, and possible solutions.

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Exhibitors also offered solutions to the issue of waste, demonstrating new products made from recycled or biodegradable material. Notable displays included Ragbags, an eco-friendly shopping bag, made from a soft and absorbent plant-based material. When not being used as a standard shopping bag it can be repurposed as a rag, which is reportedly eight times more absorbent than standard paper towels and can be washed and reused. Also on show was a sustainable packaging alternative called Cocoform, which was developed by Enkev. Cocoform is made of the coil (fibre) collected from coconut husk – a byproduct of the food industry, which can then be moulded into a variety of shapes.

The big reveal: unpacking the consumer experience

"Creating a premium feel in packaging was a prominent factor across the exhibition."

The consumer experience was also a driving topic as companies compete to stand out from the crowd by using the unpackaging trend to create a positive emotional response.

 What was once confined to specialist gift packaging is making its way into the mainstream premium market as more and more companies seek solutions that delay the final reveal of the product, allowing users to interact with the product, while also creating a sense of excitement and anticipation; a feeling that may be lost in the world of online shopping.

 Luxury packaging company Pollard showcased this heightened unpacking though a range of rigid presentation boxes, which uses a number of printing technologies and materials to create barriers and force the user to prolong the opening experience, increasing the desire for the end product, as well as the emotional response to the product once it has been unwrapped. 

Faux-couture leads the gift packaging sector

Creating a premium feel in packaging was a prominent factor across the exhibition. Whether it was though the use of innovative materials, colour, embossing, or the size and shape of the packaging, the trend for premium aesthetics was apparent across the exhibition stalls.

"Creative methods of teasing products, including cut-outs and viewing windows, were a trend that appeared across the event."

Qualvis showcased its in-flight tray touted as the first airline tray designed to replicate premium gift packaging for an airline meal or snack tray. Featuring an embossed quilted leather appearance the tray is fully recyclable and printed using low migration inks to ensure food compatibility and can be adapted to include airline brandings.

A window of opportunity for innovative designs

From the greenhouse appearance of the Hendrick’s Cucumber Hothouse, with high arching window panels to display the gin miniatures, to Mondi’s feature window paper packaging, new and creative methods of teasing products, including cut-outs and viewing windows, were a trend that appeared across the event.

Alongside an actual café and macaroon stand, Graphic Packaging International’s revealed its new café-style concept, which featured minimalist, cut-out panels in the back of bottle multipacks. The slick cut-outs have each individual drink flavour printed in small typography below, maintaining a premium concept with a simple alternative to film panels or traditional front of pack cut outs.