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Changes in Packaging: Looking Forward as the COVID-19 Pandemic Both Revealed & Accelerated Trends

One of the big changes that came with the COVID-19 pandemic was a sharp increase in e-commerce. This trend was already in progress, but the pandemic brought some things along faster and brought other issues to the fore:

  • There was more of it! Obviously you need more packaging when shipping direct to consumers, but companies sought to maximize delivery space by optimizing both what kind of packaging is needed and how the products ship together.
  • Need for speed: With high volumes of orders, fulfillment companies look for anything that will speed up the process, including using AI for packaging right-sizing and selecting mailers rather than boxes.
  • Perishables: More grocery shopping online requires insulated and other types of protective packaging.
  • Ship from store: Retail outlets being used as microfulfillment centers means smaller packaging systems.
  • Direct to consumer: Online orders don’t need labels and other elements to catch shoppers’ eyes on a retail shelf, but labels and packaging still needs to communicate use, instructions, warning, and brand culture, among other information.
  • Curbside pickup: Curbside delivery enables e-commerce activity without the need for shipment packaging; a shopping bag was enough.
  • Sustainability trends: High levels of e-commerce shopping made shipment packaging very visible to customers as they dealt with more boxes, fill packaging, wrappers, and mailers than ever before.
  • Theft-resistant packaging in for changes: If a product never sits on a retail shelf, the purpose of hard shell plastic to deter shoplifting is diminished. Such packaging can also harm the ability to restock returns as the original packaging must often be broken or cut into to see or test the product. The push might be more toward tamper evident labels and bags to ensure the orders arrive intact, particularly if delivered by a third-party operator, or with tracking elements to reduce lost or stolen packaged while in transit.

For more information and a discussion of market opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research related to the packaging industry, including Global Corrugated Boxes, Corrugated & Paperboard Boxes, Protective Packaging, Global E-Commerce Packaging, Stretch & Shrink Film, Global Pallets, Bubble Packaging, Insulated Packaging Containers & Shippers, Protective Mailers, and Global Packaging Machinery. Related analysis from our sister publisherPackaged Facts can be found in these reports: Amazon Strategies and the Amazon Shopper, Consumer & Corporate Food Gifting, Food Carryout & Delivery, and Global Food E-Commerce. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Covid-19      Packaging