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International packaging research reveals safety and quality warning in the race to innovate

31 May 2023

Innovation

Packaging

Report

International packaging research reveals safety and quality warning in the race to innovate

As a global packaging, product, and material test and measurement partner, protecting the integrity of our customer’s brand and product is at the heart of what we do. But in order to make that happen, we believe it’s important to stay connected with the industries we serve and endeavour to fully understand the very real challenges that are affecting the way their business operates. 

With this in mind, we recently conducted an international survey of packaging professionals operating in the consumer goods, food and beverage, and medical and pharmaceutical industries. The goal? To understand more about the drivers and obstacles impacting the packaging industry within the next five to ten years.  

Our findings found a strong appetite across the board for innovation, with the overwhelming majority of packaging decision-makers (96%) agreeing it is important for companies to explore new packaging developments. 

It was also clear from our research findings and the contributions of experts from across the globe that the packaging industry is currently undergoing a period of rapid transformation. The pressure to evolve is being driven by market factors including consumer expectations, sustainability initiatives, regulatory requirements, supply chain disruptions, and extreme competition.  

However, as you’ll notice within the report, there is somewhat of a risk that the pressures and challenges currently faced could result in the safety and quality of packaging being overlooked in the race to innovate.  

Growing external pressures  

Our report revealed that the biggest goals driving change in the sector currently are:  

  • Waste reduction (57%) 
  • Reducing the cost of packaging (55%) 
  • Sustainability (53%)  

 

We found that environmental considerations continue to be one of the most influential factors in the packaging industry. In 2022, we released a research report on packaging sustainability, where manufacturers revealed investment in sustainable packaging was driven by the goal to reduce their environmental footprint (65%), reduce waste (50%), and meet consumer demand (49%). This year’s packaging survey results indicate that waste reduction and sustainability remain defining considerations, with respondents reporting the greatest areas for development in the next five years as: material choice (53%), production processes (51%) and material reduction (49%).  

Steve Davis, Product Line Director at Industrial Physics, explains in the report how these considerations are being driven by external demand pressures building in the industry: “consumers, and lobby groups that speak for the consumer, are driving the industry toward endlessly recyclable packaging.”  

Complexities to address

Our research also uncovered that the three biggest challenges faced in packaging innovation in 2023 are: 

    1. Current testing standards 
    2. High cost of expertise 
    3. Cost of materials 

 

Each of these challenges is surrounded by deeper complexities, however, if ignored, we risk the development of new packaging without the knowledge or ability to ensure it meets the requirements and regulations for that sector. It is therefore essential that we tackle these as an industry in order to ensure that innovation does not come at the cost of ensuring safety and quality in packaging.  

Looking ahead

Within the research, we also explored packaging professional’s attitudes to the opportunities for innovation in the next five years. Three opportunities identified included:   

  • Packaging testing processes and equipment 
  • Packaging shape 
  • Package coating 

 

These areas of innovations were highlighted for their multitude of potential benefits. For example, introducing automation to existing processes could significantly improve efficiency and lead to cost-savings, whereas investing in new equipment for testing could facilitate the testing of new materials to meet updated regulations. 

Packaging shape and design has traditionally focused on functionality and branding opportunities, however, exploring new shapes can help to reduce waste while also improving the customer experience (e.g., collapsible packaging that takes up less space in the recycling bin).   

Finally, coatings used in packaging to protect the contents from external factors can be harmful to humans and the environment. By exploring alternative coatings, including plant-based or biodegradable options, a safer package can be created that also reduces the harm to the environment.  

On the latest research report, Greg Wright, Chief Commercial Officer at Industrial Physics commented: “We are really pleased to see the strong appetite for packaging innovation from our latest research. We understand the immense pressure that packaging professionals are facing, however, accelerating innovation cannot come at the cost of ensuring safety for customers. Therefore, we undertook this research to explore the landscape in more detail. We hope that this report highlights to those in the industry how they can overcome their current challenges and seize the host of opportunities that our industry has to offer in the coming years.” 

To see the full survey results and explore the topics highlighted in more detail, download our report here.

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