Which packaging visions have a future?
2/19/2023 Design Article

Which packaging visions have a future?

Packaging is under tremendous pressure to change. Since there is no silver bullet for the moment, the industry has forge new paths. Henning Schmidt, Managing Director of Honeypot Designstudio of Taste GmbH, picks up on important trends in his presentation at FACHPACK 2022.

Henning Schmidt from taste speaks at FACHPACK. Henning Schmidt is the Managing Director of Honeypot and specialised in packaging design.

During the Corona pandemic, the advantages of packaging in terms of hygiene and safe transport have once again become the focus of attention. But new crises are now calling for the conservation of resources – not least the climate crisis that looms over everything. Packaging must provide answers to these challenges, says Henning Schmidt. In times of raw material shortages, for example, a more resource-conserving packaging design makes economic sense. In addition, companies would also score points with consumers. After all, sustainable awareness has evolved from an individual lifestyle to a social movement. To remain competitive it is therefore important to implement sustainable strategies.


How can packaging become more sustainable?

According to Schmidt, packaging will never be completely sustainable, but through constant adjustments and optimisations, packaging manufacturers can continuously reduce the impact on the environment and the climate. A look at the preferences of consumers shows that there is no way around this: three quarters of Germans would welcome more sustainable packaging, Schmidt emphasises. (Sources: Statista 2021, Foodreport 2023)

For 55 percent of consumers, sustainability means that packaging is biodegradable. 53 percent attach importance to the use of recycled materials and 46 percent want recyclable materials.
Nevertheless, shopping sustainably still involves hurdles for consumers. For one thing, there is the higher price. On the other hand, the trend towards convenience is unbroken, but often competes with sustainability. Both can be combined, but according to Schmidt they should always be subject to the goal of avoiding, reducing and improving.

There are many manufacturers who show how this can be achieved. Particularly for animal-based foods, two types of packaging are commercially successful, as Schmidt demonstrates with a few examples: Monomaterials and hybrid packaging. Monomaterials allow plastic to be saved without compromising the hygiene factor. This packaging consists of 95 percent of one primary material from which high-quality recyclate can be obtained when it is reused. Hybrid packaging, on the other hand, is coated with a thin layer of plastic over the cardboard, which ensures that the quality of the goods is not impaired. Plastic and paper components can be easily separated and disposed of separately. In this way, 50 to 75 percent of plastic can be saved.


What is already working?

Compostable packaging films made of cellulose are a bio-based alternative. Nucao, for example, uses these films for its chocolate and granola bars. According to Schmidt, the plastic-free packaging is supposed to decompose completely after 180 days in the compost and thus fits into the business concept of the "green" food start-up from Leipzig.

Grass packaging has also already arrived on the shelves and is being promoted by the Rewe supermarket chain in particular. The material has been used for organic fruit and vegetables since 2017 and has shown its suitability for everyday use: It is accepted by customers and does not lead to a loss of quality. 

Meanwhile, packaging made from algae is in the starting blocks. However, the corresponding processes are currently still undergoing optimisation for industrial production. But the material is promising, says Schmidt.

With its first paper bag for frozen food, Frosta shows that paper has the potential to conquer new applications. The packaging is unbleached and uncoated. The pouches are nevertheless resistant to moisture. 

Depending on the application, however, paper is not necessarily always the more sustainable alternative. Often the manufacturing processes for plastic packaging are more resource-efficient than those for comparable products made of paper. It is therefore important to differentiate and to continue to look at packaging individually. The starting point for the design remains the product and its requirements. Manufacturers must be aware that there will not be one sustainable solution: Packaging remains an optimisation process without a final end.