26. March 2024

The Art of Packaging – Part 2

The future of consumption: Megatrends in food and packaging

"It is the megatrends of health, sustainability, individualisation and connectivity that will determine what ends up on our plates," says Daniel Anthes, an economic geographer, business economist, publicist and trend researcher specialising in nutrition and sustainability. The expert sees consumers on the threshold of a new era of consumption.

In the future, this will develop in the direction of a healthier, more sustainable, more networked and more individualised model that meets people's needs and the demands of the times. From sustainability to digitalisation, these so-called megatrends permeate the entire consumption cycle and are shaping both the market and the way products are packaged.

A close look at these developments not only provides insights into consumers' current preferences, but also enables predictions to be made about the future direction of consumer behaviour and the adjustments companies will need to make to remain relevant. In this second part of our series “The Art of Packaging”, we look at megatrends in food and packaging.

The 12 megatrends

source: zukunftsInstitut
source: zukunftsInstitut
source: zukunftsInstitut

In the shopping basket of the future: Zukunftsinstitut identifies trends and tendencies 

The Zukunftsinstitut (engl.: future institute) is an independent think tank and consultancy specialising in the analysis and prediction of future trends. The institute deals with a wide range of topics that could influence the future, including technology, society, the economy,
the environment, culture and consumer behaviour. It regularly identifies various megatrends that represent long-term developments and changes in society, the economy, technology and culture. These megatrends are considered fundamental drivers that will significantly shape the future. With a half-life period of 10-15 years, they not only change individual segments or areas of social life or the economy – they also reshape entire societies. They can be seen all over the world, with different characteristics. 

Consumption of the future: healthy, conscious, individual 

The consumption of the future will be characterised by three main features: health, awareness and individuality. These aspects reflect consumers' increasing awareness of their personal health, sustainability and the uniqueness of their needs. Health is at the centre of future consumer trends. People will pay more attention to what they consume and opt for healthy food and products.

Awareness will also play a central role in future consumer behaviour: Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental and social impact of their purchases and already favour products that are environmentally friendly, fairly traded, minimally processed and contribute to a sustainable lifestyle. In addition, consumers will increasingly demand personalised products and services that meet their individual needs and preferences.

All in all, these are consumer demands that sometimes seem incompatible or difficult to reconcile. Trend researcher Daniel Anthes sees things differently, however:
„Nutrition and consumption will become easier in the future. In the past, we were often spoilt for choice when it came to nutrition: should it be healthy – or should it taste good? The food of the future will resolve this contradiction: healthy and delicious, regional and exotic, sustainable and enjoyable – increasingly, these will all go hand in hand. There won't just be one future, there will be something for every taste.“
The integration of technology into daily life supports people in their efforts to further optimise themselves, with apps and devices that help with daily food choices, planning meals, optimising shopping and perfecting cooking.
"The trend is towards self-optimisation according to the motto 'grow old healthily and stay young'," say the market and consumer researchers at Mintel in the 2024 Global Food & Drink Trends Report. The company provides information and analyses relating to the packaging industry and developments in market behaviour.

79% of German millennials say they need more functional food and drink as they get older (compared to 31% on average for all age groups)

In addition to health and individuality, sustainability also plays a major role in consumers' consumption decisions, according to Mintel:
"The 'new green reality' is more than just a trend – it's a change in consumer awareness. However, 52 percent of German consumers doubt the honesty of companies when it comes to their environmental impact. This mistrust is prompting brands to be more transparent and actively involve consumers in their sustainability efforts."

74% of Germans consider climate and the environment important when it comes to food

source: Daniel Anthes

The role of packaging – about aesthetics and ecological responsibility

How can the food packaging industry respond to changing consumer demands? After all, in a world where first impressions count and consumer attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, packaging design plays a crucial role. It’s not just a shell that surrounds a product, but a powerful tool that influences perception, arouses emotions and ultimately guides purchasing decisions. Packaging designers are now faced with the challenge of combining aesthetic appeal with functional practicality to create unique and appealing solutions without losing sight of the ecological aspects.

Packaging engineer Volker Muche, Managing Director of PACOON, one of Germany’s leading agencies for packaging design and sustainability, says: “An area of tension has developed between the idea of sustainability and differentiating a brand from competing products. I have to do the one, but cannot neglect the other. After all, ecological aspects are playing an increasingly important role: sustainable materials and resource-saving packaging concepts are more in demand than ever and contribute to the positive perception of a brand. However, elaborately designed packaging that stands out from the crowd on the supermarket shelf in order to distinguish itself from the competition does not necessarily suggest sustainable behaviour.” The motto here is rather: less is more.

In the 2024 report „Global Consumer New Green Reality“ Mintel’s researchers emphasise: “Sustainability is no longer a selling point – if it ever was or should have been – but should be seen as a vital element that drives brands to continuously innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible and what is necessary.”

Overall, it is clear that consumers expect more and more from brands: transparency, authenticity and a packaging design that is positively perceived through understatement. Trend researcher Daniel Anthes confirms:

"The closer we are to the things we consume, the greater our appreciation of them. Because the more we know about the origin, quality and sustainability of our food, the more consciously we can make decisions."
Those brands that can face up to these complex requirements and adapt will position themselves at the forefront of the consumer landscape in 2024. "This can be achieved," packaging engineer Volker Muche is convinced, "through transparency and simplicity in design communication." 
In the next articles in our series "The Art of Packaging", we will focus on three of the megatrends identified by the Zukunftsinstitut and their respective effects on brand and packaging communication.

Neo-Ecology

with new ethics, transparency & mindfulness

Knowledge Culture

with storytelling,heritage & content

Connectivity

with artificial intelligence, individuality and change in purchase habits
Case Milk & More
Milk & More, UK

In addition to the classic glass bottle, Milk & More now also offers its customers fresh milk in Pure-Pak® cartons with natural brown board. In good old British tradition, they are delivered directly to the doorstep by the milkman. Each product variant is presented as a different façade of a home.

Case Joerd
Arla JÖRĐ, UK

JÖRĐ is Arla’s plant-based brand that has existed since 2020. It has now been relaunched as Arla JÖRĐ, making it a sub-brand of Arla. The product range includes oat drinks in various flavours, whose packaging designs have also been revised as part of the rebranding. 

Case Yoplait
Yoplait, France

Yoplait, the world’s largest yoghurt franchise brand, launches its first pourable and spoonable yoghurt in the Pure-Pak® Sense carton. The packaging is made from 78% renewable materials. With its 750 gram size, the carton replaces 6 plastic yoghurt pots and saves 50% packaging.

Case PlainB
plain b, Germany

Following the successful launch of plain b’s refill hand soap with the apricot fragrance last year, two new fragrances are now available: ‘Northern Lights’ and ‘Forest Harmony’. Compared to conventional plastic hand soap dispensers, the D-PAK carton saves 82% plastic.