A future view of packaging

Given the costs involved, it’s vital that changes in packaging stand the test of time. For marketers, three long-term trends stand out, writes Nick Dormon, managing director of Echo. 

Sponsored by Echo


Packaging serves four main functions:

  • It protects the product.
  • It facilitates the run from factory to store.
  • It enables brands to visualise their values.
  • It provides a site for product information.

This has been true for decades, and is likely to remain true, in varying degrees, for decades to come. But that doesn’t mean that packaging doesn’t need to move and adapt with the times.

Commercial, environmental and legislative influences force brands to make changes on an annual cycle. Of course, it is important that brands are able to respond to the present, but often, instead of thinking ahead, they wait around to be prompted by necessity.

We’re not suggesting that brands should rush to execute every inspired notion that springs to mind, but because of the nature of mass production, brands do need to constantly keep an eye on the future. Incorporating new processes into supply chains requires huge injections of capital and great patience: it can take more than a decade before brands see any kind of return on their investments.

Consequently, marketers need to be confident that all significant change and costs incurred will stand the test of time. The best way to build this confidence is to develop a considered, holistic and long-term view. We’ve pinpointed three emerging packaging trends that brands can look to build on.


The world’s population is expected to grow by 72 per cent by 2050. Swelling to accommodate this increase, cities that are already heaving – particularly in developing countries – will become even more cramped, causing homes and shops to decrease drastically in size. Driving mopeds instead of cars and coping with much less space for storage, most consumers will be unable to pick up a whole week’s worth of shopping in one go.

So what does that mean? In order to offer a variety of products, condensed shops will require packs that fit onto narrower shelves. And with less storage space at home, instead of looking to buy more for less, consumers will be willing to pay up for small, high-quality packaged goods that suit this new style of living.

Some brands have reacted to this trend already. Fairy Liquid offers a variety of its products in concentrated form to provide consumers with the maximum possible use from each purchase without compelling them to buy huge packs that are awkward to use and take up storage space at home. Similarly, Unilever’s Sure compressed deodorant can lasts just as long as the original pack but uses 28 per cent less packaging. The smaller size makes the product more convenient for daily use and it’s also ergonomic and elegant, retaining the brand’s distinctive look and feel. The compressed can is also much more environmentally friendly than the bigger pack.

Sure compressed deodorant uses 28 per cent less packaging, Carling glasses have become more elegant and the packaging of Cow & Gate formula milk has more functions than ever


Brands in developed markets have to cater for increasingly savvy and highly demanding consumers. The market is already highly saturated and will only become more so in the coming years. Since brands will struggle to reach many new consumers, the challenge will be to entice existing consumers to spend more. To do so, brands need to be unafraid to spend on high-quality materials, enabling them to design beautifully crafted packaging and brand experiences that users will love.

We recently helped Carling to reposition and redesign its whole brand. Carling wanted to project a more aspirational, high-quality image to appeal to a broader audience, including more discerning lager drinkers, without alienating its consumer base. As well as rethinking its brand mark and cans, Echo also redesigned its glassware and fonts. 

The old-fashioned pint glass was replaced by a taller, thinner, more elegant variant, with Carling’s branding etched and printed onto it. To show Carling’s pride and stature on the bar, the new font – like the glass – is tall, confident and contemporary, and delivers a 270-degree branding view to improve consumer interaction. We worked with the manufacturers at every stage to ensure that high-quality materials and finishes were used throughout, making Carling’s attention to detail evident at every consumer touchpoint.

Another great success story is Nespresso. Despite its association with instant coffee brand Nescafé, it has managed to market its coffee as a high-end premium product. The brand showcases its elegant packaging at more than 200 Nespresso stores, where refills are stacked stylishly in blocks of bold colours alongside the machines and accessories. This delivers a sophisticated and memorable experience that entices consumers
to spend more and more often.

Packaging for the home, not the store

With the increasing dominance of the digital world, packaging’s role on-shelf is becoming less important. When it comes to online shopping, websites quite rightly feature the product itself as the centre of display. Packaging still fulfils its practical function, protecting the product in transit, but it no longer necessarily needs to host all of the product information as the bulk of this can now be displayed online. Neither does it need to compete in terms of standout. Even in the physical world, many modern shops are starting to function more like showrooms for products, with packaging kept out of sight in the back room.

So brands need to rethink how they design their packaging. Rather than accepting defeat and stripping it back to its simplest form, brands have the opportunity to design packaging that is less showy and more functional; designed to perform fantastically and look great in our homes rather than to stand out on shop shelves.

To improve Cow & Gate’s formula milk packaging, Echo observed users interacting with the existing packs and identified a number of opportunities to enhance its functionality and performance. We added a safe place to clip the scoop, a helpful levelling bar, a protective freshness seal and an audibly reassuring airtight lid. Although the new pack costs more to manufacture, on-launch sales increased by 17 per cent; the pack won over mums because it made feeding so much simpler.

So, don’t be afraid to break the cycle. Don’t just react to the present, make sure you think about the future too. And when you’re looking for trends to build on, keep these tips in mind:

  • Less volume, more concentration.
  • Less quantity, more quality.
  • Design for the home, not the store. 

Nick Dormon
Managing director

443 Oxford Street
London W1C 2PW

T: 020 7647 8370
E: helloecho@echobranddesign.co.uk
W: www.echobranddesign.com

Twitter: @echobranddesign



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