Packaging Trend Focus: E-commerce Channel Growth is Great Packaging Opportunity

All signs are that the e-commerce market will continue to thrive even after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. There is excellent opportunity for operators to find innovative ways to make online packaging both more functional and sustainable.

UK consultancy ThePackHub’s latest packaging report details more than 550 packaging innovations and is grouped into nine trend sections.  The recently published Global Packaging Trends Compendium 2021 goes into great depth about the packaging initiatives leading the way and shaping things to come.  One of the trend areas is  - The Online Surge – reflecting the many innovations related to the growth of the e-commerce channel. The progress of the online channel is significant. The sector has perhaps grown more in the last 12 months than at any time in the previous 20 years. It has received a considerable boost due to behavioural COVID-19 pandemic changes as swathes of consumers worldwide were compelled to switch from purchases from their local bricks and mortar stores to buying directly from their mobile, computer or tablet screens. These changes have had an immediate impact on the innovations coming to market and we’ve tracked some great examples.

Airpad, by Swiss-based Fromm Packaging SystemsAirpad, by Swiss-based Fromm Packaging SystemsThePackHubPaper-based cushioning alternative to plastic-based or crumpled paper products - A new paper-based cushioning product has been launched by Swiss-based Fromm Packaging Systems. Called Airpad, it is a sealable paper product intended to replace inflated plastic-based or crumpled paper cushioning products. It is comprised of 75% recycled material and can be recycled with other paper products. It is also made from FSC approved materials. In use, the make up of the finished cushion is 99% air and 1% paper. It is estimated that weight savings of between 30-50% can be achieved compared to crumpled paper. Two variants are available, with sizes of 200 x 135mm, and 400 x 150mm. The Airpad rolls are made on the Airpad 150 machine sold by Fromm and are stated to be low maintenance and easy to use.

Recyclable alternative to plastic bags introduced - Leading provider of corrugated packaging solutions DS Smith has been on the innovation trail again with the introduction of what is claimed to be the first 100% recyclable alternative to plastic bags. The solution has the dual advantage of being accepted for conventional retail product pick up or for use for online deliveries.  As the single-use plastic bag ban continues to advance around the world, DS Smith is offering their Greentote solution as the first reusable and recyclable container made from renewable resources. The USDA food-contact safe alternative is made of cardboard and available in two sizes. The moisture-resistant fibre-based tote is reported to be sturdier than paper to help keep grocery items protected. Greentote can hold more than three times the number of groceries than plastic bags and can interlock to improve convenience during transportation. Greentote is coated with DS Smith’s proprietary Greencoat solution to deliver moisture-resistant capabilities.


   Read this story on protective packaging demand during the pandemic.


Hero PackagingHero PackagingThePackHubPlant-based mailing bags are home compostable - Sydney-based supplier of compostable packaging for e-commerce, Hero Packaging, is on a mission to remove single-use plastic in Australia via the introduction of a new mailer. The new material is home compostable and is waterproof and durable to perform in a similar way to plastic. The certified home compostable material has saved over three million plastic mailers from being used through its range of Heropack shipping bags.  Hero Packaging also has a home compostable padded mailer called Herobubble that contain FSC-certified compostable paper. The plastic-free Hero range consists of plant-based materials such as PLA and a certified compostable corn starch-based PBAT material. To compost the mailers at home, consumers need to remove any labels and then cut up the mailers before placing them in a compost bin. It is reported that the bags will completely break down within 90-120 days in a home-compostable environment. They can also be sent to composting facilities as part of their end of life options. Hero Packaging are also trialling a new range of compostable sticky tape, which can replace plastic-based tape in the shipping process.

Meal kit brand uses 91% less packaging by weight than average - Fast-casual restaurant chain Just Salad has announced the introduction of a new meal kit offering. Many traditional meal kits have a reputation for using a lot of packaging. However, the Housemade meal kit from Just Salad reports a waste-free packaging offering. It is available via food ordering and delivery platform Grubhub. The Housemade meal kits arrive in curbside recyclable and compostable packaging. The pack labels are water-soluble. Meals are delivered within an hour of ordering, which negates the requirement for using dry ice or other cold storage materials. The Housemade kits start at $10.49 for a single serving. The Housemade kits reported deliver 91% less packaging by weight than a traditional meal kit. Just Salad’s strategy of using its own locations to fulfil orders and delivering those orders within an hour removes a lot of the challenges associated with excessive packaging. Housemade meal kitHousemade meal kitThePackHub

All the signs are that the e-commerce market will continue to thrive even after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. There is an excellent opportunity for operators to continue to find innovative ways to make online packaging both more functional and sustainable. It is a great time to be in packaging innovation.

The 2021 Global Packaging Trends Compendium comprises nine new packaging trends. It features a comprehensive assessment of more than 550 packaging innovations. It also includes the interviews of 16 industry experts from around the world, featuring packaging experts from the likes of Mars Wrigley, Mondelez, Ocado and the World Packaging Organisation. More information on the compendium.


   Watch this video on replacing fossil-based plastic with bio-based plastic.

PACK EXPO Las Vegas and Healthcare Packaging EXPO (Sept. 27-29, Las Vegas Convention Center) will reunite the packaging and processing community, offering new products, technologies and solutions, while implementing up-to-date protocols for a safe and successful in-person event. Attendee registration opens in May.

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