As we move into a new year, it’s time to ask what kinds of trends, priorities and disruptive innovations will be the key drivers in 2023. We spoke to Jeevaraj Pillai, joint president, flexible packing business and new product development, UFlex, about the year that has passed by, and the challenges and opportunities for the industry in 2023 and beyond.
Manash Das: Packaging industry in 2022 and trends in 2023…
Jeevaraj Pillai: Consumer markets are experiencing rapid growth, especially in the food, personal care, and pharmaceutical industries and coupled with phenomenal growth in e-commerce sales, the packaging industry continues to register robust growth. Flexible packaging is gaining preference over rigid packaging alternatives, as it is lightweight and cost-effective. Research by allied market research indicates the size of the global flexible packaging market at USD 68.5 billion in 2021, which is projected to reach USD 102.8 billion by 2031 at a CAGR of 4.2%.
Notwithstanding the proliferation of new packaging options, sustainability, smart packaging solutions and reusable/recyclable packaging were the notable trends in 2022. Going into the New Year, several brands will rethink their ESG strategies to deliver on their stakeholder expectations, make progress on their carbon reduction journey, and address other environmental and community concerns with reference to non-recycled waste.
Manash Das: How will Environment, Social, Governance (ESG) create long-term value for the packaging industry?
Jeevaraj Pillai: Environment, Social, Governance reporting will continue to attract attention across the globe, particularly in the packaging industry. To combat the growing environmental crisis, manufacturers and brands will actively establish sustainability goals that will help reduce their carbon footprint and keep waste out of landfills. Packaging companies will also adopt biodegradable materials and recycled content in flexible packaging. Packaging manufacturers will focus on source reduction by going thinner; source substitution by replacing hard-to-recycle components.
Manash Das: How will reusability and recyclability evolve in 2023?
Jeevaraj Pillai: Due to rising awareness among consumers and an increased focus on sustainability by brand owners, recycling and use of recycled content is getting evolved faster than before. This will continue to evolve in 2023. Consumer awareness will motivate manufacturers to further invest in R&D to produce packaging that can be upcycled, recycled or reused.
The lack of waste collection infrastructure is driving the development of biodegradable packaging material. Many countries including India have started legislating use of biodegradable material for packaging and we should see concrete steps in this direction in the year 2023.
Manash Das: How do you envisage the role of improved utility, aesthetics and cost optimization?
Jeevaraj Pillai: Packing solutions will aim to deliver on consumer demand for easy-to-carry options and easy-to-dispense options for retailers. We will also see a faster transition from rigid packaging to flexible to reduce cost and source materials. Brand owners will seek and adopt more anti-counterfeiting options and improved aesthetics by using holograms, tactile printing and subject-highlighting techniques.
Manash Das: How will smart and interactive packaging offer extended functions beyond the protection or containment of the product?
Jeevaraj Pillai: The future of design in packaging is smart and interactive packaging. By utilizing augmented reality, virtual reality and QR codes, manufacturers can attract end-consumers to interact directly and more frequently with their brands. Shelf life identification, aroma detection and food quality detection inside a pack will become the norm.
As the world moves towards sustainability, packaging companies and brand owners will be more transparent with consumers and communities at large in stating their recyclability, source reduction and other ESG goals and achievements. By revolutionizing customer experience and simultaneously protecting the environment, manufacturers and brands will not only win the trust of consumers but also contribute to the sustainable growth of the global economy.