Industrial Physics has surveyed 284 international packaging professionals operating in the consumer goods, food and beverage and medical and pharmaceutical industries for their thoughts on industry innovation.

According to the research, 96% of packaging decision-makers believe it is important for companies to explore new developments.

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The specific goals driving change in the sector are waste reduction (57%), reducing the cost of packaging (55%) and sustainability (53%).

What are the biggest challenges facing packaging innovation in 2023?

  • Current testing standards and limited testing capability
  • Manufacturing and production complexities
  • Supply chain issues
  • Cost of materials

Cost of materials was identified as critical, with the biggest obstacles being the allocation of budget to other departments (53%), profit margins (52%) and the difficulty of justifying ROI (52%).

Another major issue is testing standards. Of those surveyed, 40% cited a lack of appropriate standards. Meanwhile, 29% said they struggled with outdated standards, 32% said their technology was unequipped to meet them, and another 26% said they had difficulty understanding or interpreting those standards regarding testing.

What are the opportunities for innovation in the next five years?

  • Packaging testing processes, automation and equipment
  • Packaging design led by user experience and waste reduction
  • Plant-based or biodegradable coatings for packaging materials

The report highlights manufacturers’ primary motivators for innovation as ensuring the quality (70%) and safety of packaging (61%).

In terms of sustainability, respondents reported the greatest areas for development in the next five years as a material choice (53%), production processes (51%) and material reduction (49%).

Recyclability was also noted as the top area for investment (60%). Of the respondents, 90% said they had either reduced or replaced plastic or flexible plastic in the past five years.

However, sustainability comes with its own set of challenges. Gartner Supply Chain’s senior director analyst John Blake commented: “The problem with many of today’s sustainable packaging commitments is that they have little-to-no viable paths to becoming reality. The other problem is that this information is not getting to executive leaders.”

Industrial Physics CCO Greg Wright concluded: “We understand the immense pressure that packaging professionals are facing, navigating sustainable customer preferences, budget restraints and changing legislation. However, accelerating packaging innovation cannot come at the cost of ensuring safety for customers.”

Industrial Physics is a packaging, product and material test and inspection provider. Earlier this month, the company was acquired by investment funds managed by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.