08. May 2024

The Art of Packaging – Part 3

Growing something new: Towards a sustainable future 

In a world characterised by increasing environmental problems and ecological challenges, a paradigm shift is emerging: the rise of neo-ecology. This is one of 12 megatrends that will characterize our economy, our everyday lives and our consumption in the 21st century. Neo-ecology goes far beyond simply reducing waste or protecting individual species. It encompasses a broad spectrum of innovative approaches, technologies and ways of thinking that aim to promote a harmonious coexistence between humans and nature.

In the third part of our series 'The Art of Packaging', we look at the concept of neo-ecology, its characteristics and its impact on packaging and design.

Liberation from clichés and dogmatic hurdles 

Environmental awareness and sustainability have evolved from individual lifestyle choices and consumer trends into a broader social movement. The neo-ecology trend emphasizes the inseparable connection between people and the environment. It recognizes that our well-being is intricately linked to the well-being of the planet. No longer focused solely on sacrifice or guilt, neo-ecology seeks sustainable and pragmatic solutions that view people and technology as essential component for a harmonious ecological future.
"Consumption is increasingly taking ecological and social-ethical aspects into account - even more so, the more diverse, cost-effective and low-threshold the range of products on offer becomes. A common thread here is the trend towards a higher quality of life. "Better instead of more" is becoming the guiding principle of individual and collective strategies.
Zukunftsinstitut, an independent think tank and consulting firm 

The task of companies: Act sustainably and relieve consumers 

Growing awareness of environmental issues and health concerns, as well as regulatory measures and changes in the retail sector, are leading to rethinking amongst consumers:

It is already noticeable that our diet is changing due to more mindful, conscious consumption and a growing awareness of the environment and responsibility. Forty-two per cent of consumers actively consider themselves to be sustainability-conscious - and the trend is rising. 

Consumers want more environmentally friendly products and packaging. 

This goes hand-in-hand with the desire for sustainable packaging. Consumers are prepared to take active action. This means investing time, informing themselves and sometimes even changing their favourite habits.
More than half of consumers have not bought a product because it was not packaged sustainably. (Source: German Packaging Institute) 
However, sustainability awareness in everyday consumer life is always characterised by conflicting motives and internal dissonance. Acting sustainably requires consumers to constantly weigh up and balance things out. Those who actively act sustainably confront these inner conflicts and look for practical solutions, more information about the sustainability of packaging and a wider range or more alternatives of sustainable products.

Consumers clearly see companies as having a responsibility here: 89 per cent of Germans expect companies to act more sustainably. (Source: Study 'Sustainability in focus - motives, behaviour and wishes of consumers' by the market research institute Rothmund Insights from Cologne) 
For the consumer, packaging - and ideally its contents - should be produced sustainably and be able to be recycled in an environmentally friendly way. However, convenience should not be neglected. 
"Consumers expect packaging that has as little impact on the environment as possible. Despite all sustainability endeavours, it still has to be practical and convenient.”
Packaging engineer Volker Muche, Managing Director of PACOON 

Zero Waste – beyond Plastic

After 'climate change' and 'water scarcity', plastic waste is in third place in the ranking of global corporations. (Source: Kantar report “Who cares? Who does?”)
Although we are surrounded by a large number of useful plastic products today, we are also surrounded by huge mountains of plastic waste. And the reduction of plastic has a significant impact on achieving the 1.5-degree climate protection target. 
Despite the rethinking process among many consumers, far too much food packaged in plastic still ends up in the shopping basket. We have to offer climate-friendly alternatives to many of the 1,000,000 plastic bottles that are bought globally every minute.
Protagonists along the entire value chain are needed to drive the transformation forward. 
„We are not going to recycle or ban our way out of the plastic pollution crisis.”
Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, Director of UNEP's Economy Division  

Elopak's contribution:

We are expanding our range and areas of application for cardboard-based packaging. On the way to Net Zero in 2050, we have already reduced our emissions as planned last year, cutting them by around 1,000 tonnes (13%) compared to 2022 and around 2,800 tonnes (33%) compared to 2020. 

How we work with customers to make the world a little better


Packaging as a touchpoint for sustainable corporate philosophy 

While established companies often emphasise understatement when it comes to sustainability communication in design - according to the motto: 'less is more' - startups tend to do the opposite. Their design is generally more characterised by diversity and colourfulness. It is 'loud' and often disruptive.
"Startups tend to communicate more about their different nature than about sustainability. And often the product on the packaging hardly plays a role in the design.”
Theresa Birnkammer, Senior Art Director, PACOON
The contents are often already sustainable anyway, as is the case with plant-based products. The packaging supports the company's statement 'We are different'. The startup differentiates itself from the mainstream. The eye-catching design helps to emphasise the uniqueness and innovative character of plant-based products. It is also intended to appeal to a different target group. This is because plant-based products are often favoured by a younger, environmentally conscious audience that is committed to sustainability and animal welfare. A colourful and provocative design helps to appeal to this target group and attract their attention. Last but not least, a 'loud look' also promotes the company's brand identity. It emphasises the brand personality and sometimes tells a story that reflects the company's values and goals.

Traditional companies, on the other hand, focus more on a clear look that reflects the contents of the packaging and emphasises the brand. The overall design is often calmer and more minimalist. 

Not at all contradictory: neo-ecology and packaging

It is no longer about doing without and having a guilty conscience, but about sustainable and pragmatic solutions that see people and technology not as a problem, but as the key to a neo-ecological future. Companies are increasingly recognising the value of using plastic-reduced and low-carbon materials for their packaging, thereby reducing their environmental footprint and demonstrating a strong commitment to environmental protection and sustainability.
This is where we come in: because the fact is, our gable top cartons are already inherently a good and sustainable choice. So why not rethink existing and good solutions? Let's make the world a little better together.
We'll show you innovative and sustainable concept ideas with our gable top cartons. Let us inspire you.

Use for non-food products 

The further development of the gable top carton for non-food products such as hand soaps, detergents and washing-up liquids harbours great potential in the context of the neo-ecology megatrend. By reducing plastic and optimising logistical properties, a sustainable alternative is created that focuses on the essentials and avoids environmentally harmful additives such as microplastics and environmentally harmful surfactants. With its clean design, which symbolises purity, and clear colour coding to differentiate products, Elopak's D-PAK™ carton reflects the principles of neo-ecology and contributes to environmentally conscious product design.
Neo Ökologie Refill 1
Fictitious design concepts by Pacoon
Abbildung Non-Food Packaging 2
Fictitious design concepts by Pacoon
Fictitious design concepts by Pacoon

The gable top carton as a food saver 

The use of the Pure-Pak® carton for juices and smoothies made from rescued vegetables is also in line with the neo-ecology megatrend. This carton not only optimally protects the products, but also preserves their sensitive vitamins from the harmful effects of light, effectively saving valuable nutrients. The design emphasises the rescued vegetables as heroes and presents clear information to highlight ecological aspects and raise awareness of sustainable food production. Strong colours and shapes support this message.
Food Saver 1
Fictitious design concepts by Pacoon
Food Saver 2
Fictitious design concepts by Pacoon
Fictitious design concepts by Pacoon

Plant-based inside and outside 

The focus of the neo-ecology megatrend is the holistic view of products and packaging in the context of a sustainable lifestyle. Under the motto "What the product can do, the packaging can do too!", a symbiotic relationship is created between product and packaging that supports a sustainable lifestyle. The "plant-based" concept is played out from the product to the packaging, emphasised by illustrative key visuals and naturally brown board with visible fibre structure as a clear stylistic device. The packaging reflects the characteristics of the product and communicates clear messages through large typography to raise awareness of sustainable materials.
Fictitious design concepts by Pacoon
Fictitious design concepts by Pacoon
Fictitious design concepts by Pacoon


In the next article in our series 'The Art of Packaging', we look at the megatrend of knowledge culture identified by the Zukunftsinstitut and its impact on brand and packaging communication. 
Molokia, Ukraine

Ukrainian manufacturer Ternopil Dairy has updated the designs of its fairytale milk for the Molokia brand with new characters. Wolf, bear, fox, hedgehog, stork and rabbit are now the stars of the packaging. There is also a lactose-free milk. The products are recommended by the Association of Paediatricians of Ukraine.

Robinsons, UK

“Less plastic – more serves” – Britvic launched super strength concentrated squash for the Robinsons brand using the 500ml Pure-Pak Classic carton. The result. 60 serves per 500ml and 85% less plastic per serve.

smol, UK

smol’s refill carton range continues to grow. Following dishwashing liquid and fabric softener, stain remover has now also been available in practical cartons since the start of 2024. The original bottle for applying and dispensing the liquids is made from 100% recycled plastic.

LoveMilk, UK

In response to growing consumer concern about plastic waste, the UK’s largest independent dairy launched cartons with tethered caps for its fresh milk products in the food service sector. This will significantly reduce the amount of plastic used in Freshway’s packaging.