white text says packaging trends 2021 on blue background with green and light blue fireworks

Packaging Trends 2021: What to Expect

We can probably all agree that 2020 has been a more unexpected year than most people anticipated. The arrival of the global COVID-19 pandemic came along with extended at-home quarantines, restaurant and bar closures, and individuals nationwide working from home. It seems that everything this year was a little different and took most of us by surprise. As we head into the New Year, it’s important to understand that 2020 fundamentally changed a lot of practices in the packaging and supply chain industries. Though the beginning of 2021 may look a little different than most, there are few key packaging trends to take note of and to consider as we make changes and updates to our packaging processes. 

Packaging Trends 2021 #1: Packaging Automationpallet of boxed fruits on conveyor being stretch wrapped by mechanical arm above pallet

2020 changed our lives in countless ways, and businesses were no exception. Many companies around the United States and the entire world have found themselves needing to shift the way they get things done. In terms of their packaging processes, this meant a major switch to automation that will continue on into the new year and likely for many years to come after that. Packaging line automation assists businesses in a huge variety of ways. It allows your line to move faster, provides higher quality results than manual labor, reduces material waste, and saves you money in the long term. It was a growing trend before 2020, but became especially popular this year as it requires fewer people to gather in one enclosed space at the same time. All of these advantages mean that we’re certain to see packaging automation, from case sealers and carton erectors to auto baggers and stretch film machines, as one of the hottest packaging trends of 2021. 

Packaging Trends 2021 #2: Ecommerceman in dress shirt sitting in front of laptop holding credit card and entering info online

Throughout 2020, many people found themselves staying home and away from the busy crowds usually found at grocery stores, clothing shops, and other brick-and-mortar retail locations. In order to procure the items they need or want, most found themselves turning to ecommerce. It’s important to note that online shopping definitely wasn’t a new arrival in 2020 – ecommerce websites have been around since the 1980s and have exploded in popularity in recent years. However, 2021 will almost certainly see an even bigger shift toward this type of shopping. Even with quarantine restrictions lifting, many have grown to appreciate the ease and convenience of home delivery for products they previously left the house to buy. This includes a wide range of goods, including groceries, healthcare items, household cleaners, pet products, and beyond. So what does this mean for the sellers? If they haven’t already, any business in the B2C marketplace should pivot toward ecommerce, which will mean new or alternate forms of packaging. In 2021, we should all anticipate the increased frequency of packaging smaller items intended to reach just one household, and less frequent shipping of palletized goods to larger brick-and-mortar retail locations. 

Packaging Trends 2021 #3: Single Use Packagingpile of single serve bags of baked cheetos, potato chips, and cheez its

One packaging trend to keep an eye out for in the coming months is a rise in single use packages and packaging supplies, which goes hand in hand with the ecommerce trend. As COVID-19 swept through the nation during 2020, many individuals did their best to avoid contact with any physical surfaces that may have been touched by someone else with the virus. Not only did this mean increased efforts to sanitize commonly used areas, but it also resulted in an uptick in the use of and preference for single use packaging. As we enter 2021, a large number of shoppers still view single use packaging as one of the best and simplest ways to safeguard themselves against contamination. As a result, manufacturers and distributors will need to plan for an even larger volume of single use or single serve products, especially those in the food and beverage, restaurant, hospitality, or healthcare industries. The packaging that goes along with these one-off items generally adds up to even more material than is required for larger sets of goods, so it’s important to plan for additional packaging supplies throughout the year. If and when the pandemic dies down, it’s possible that this trend may go away, but for the duration of 2021, it’s likely that businesses around the country will need to focus on packaging supplies that can accommodate products intended for use by only one person or household.

The Future of Packaging

2020 was an unprecedented year for most people around the world and throughout the United States. While it came with many challenges and surprises, it’s always important to look toward the future and keep a positive outlook on what comes next. We hope these packaging trends help you get a good leg up and give you an idea of what to expect in 2021. IPS Packaging & Automation is proud to be your partner in productivity and we can’t wait to work together again this year.