The coronavirus crisis has brought about unprecedented transformations at a global scale, and the packaging industry has been no exception.
While the consequences of COVID-19 have not been as negative for the packaging sector as they have for other industries, there have been significant trend shifts in relation to the future of packaging.
It is, therefore, a significant change that companies of the sector must adapt to in the short term in order not only to survive, but also to come out stronger from this crisis.
Short term changes in the packaging industry
The coronavirus crisis has impacted packaging companies and related industries (such as transportation and logistics) head-on, by turning them into an essential sector: only through an effective system has it been possible for essential products to continue reaching millions of homes.
Things being as they are, COVID-19 has caused a drop in demand for certain products, while significantly increasing the consumption of others. And this is especially the case in the food packaging sector, whose turnover has been calculated at 900 billion euros according to a recent report by the McKinsey consulting firm.
In this context, the demand for certain products -as well as the packaging linked to them- has grown:
Food packaging, with a predominance of flexible and rigid plastic containers, as well as corrugated packaging. While the purchase of food products online was already on the rise, it has experienced significant growth in the face of the shelter-in-place situation.
Pharmaceutical packaging, a sector with specific characteristics such as aluminium pillboxes, rigid plastics and airtight seals to prevent contamination.
E-commerce products. While it is true that online purchases have grown during the last few years, with the advent of the coronavirus, many more companies have turned to online sales. This situation has, therefore, incentivized purchases for any kind of product in e-commerce stores, for consumers to enjoy in the safety of their homes.
There have also been changes in regard to packaging design: while trends up to this point aimed at sustainability, using recyclable materials or designing an optimized packaging, during the pandemic, some packages have been clearly reintroduced for being perceived to be safer. This is the case of plastic and other materials whose surfaces minimize the survivability of the virus.
In addition, plastic has once again come into the limelight for being one of the materials that can extend the shelf life of food and pharmaceutical products, being especially useful when stocking-up on resources, as consumers have been doing.
On the other hand, the economic standstill brought about by COVID-19 has led to a stagnation in other areas of the packaging industry: there is a lower demand in B2B commerce and industrial packaging. The loss of income in households also implies a lower demand for non-essentials that will affect retail in months to come, also affecting packaging companies in turn.
Lastly, the situation of economic uncertainty is pushing the packaging sector to cut down prices.
How the packaging industry can adapt to the coronavirus ?
This new landscape demands companies to adjust their strategies, but does not completely do away with the packaging trends that had already been in the horizon.
Things being as they are, there are at least three moves that can help the packaging industry reimagine the future after COVID-19.
1. The entire industry related to logistics and shipping must work toward resilience in times of crisis, understanding and knowing how to anticipate disruptive situations. One example involves planning ahead of the shutdown of a supplier or seeking new clients who start selling their products online.
2. Efforts to adapt to consumer demands must be thorough, detecting trends and applying them to company offerings. At the time, consumers are showing a newfound interest in the hygienic protection of products during transportation, while also taking e-commerce levels to new heights. While the packaging sustainability trend seems overshadowed by these new short-term needs, it has not disappeared.
It is up to the companies to continue researching to find solutions that show their alignment to new consumer sensitivities.
3. Preparing for the day after the crisis. The packaging industry continues in its path toward cost reduction, sustainability and transport safety. And for this, packaging testing has proven to be an effective formula.
Testing gains vital importance in this new landscape and upcoming years. Food product package testing and pharmaceutical package testing are two essential aspects in current times, since they guarantee the safety of the chosen packaging system and help companies optimize costs.
In broader terms in relation to the packaging industry, there are two examples that illustrate the need to invest in packaging testing nowadays. One of them is the research of stretch film-based tertiary packaging: reducing the caliber or thickness of this material implies more affordable transportation, in addition to lower material costs and a more sustainable solution.
The other is that the testing of flexible packaging (common for food products) can encourage companies to use this component safely, achieving up to 50% reductions in the use of material when designing the packaging and cutting down associated costs.
Source : SafeLoadTesting Website
Carlos Mora is the Sales Manager of Safe Load Testing Technologies, international provider of solutions for packaging optimization. He is Electronic Technical Engineer by the Polytechnic University of Valencia and holds an Executive Master of Project Management from the University of Valencia.
Currently Carlos is a member of the European board of ISTA (International Safe Transit Association) and collaborates in different working groups of the most important associations and committees in the packaging testing field: IAPRI association (International Association of Packaging Research Institute), ISTA (International Safe Transit Association), EUMOS (European Safe Logistics Association) and CEN (Comité Européen de Normalisation).
Carlos counts with more than 10 years of experience in sales area with a strong technical component in several industrial sectors, such as railway, pharmaceutical and packaging. In Safe Load Testing Technologies, he takes the responsibility of the sales team management and the relationship with customers, as well as the representation of the company in fairs and conferences.