Future of Packaging

by Alex Cosper on May 26, 2023

The ubiquitous nature of packaging, particularly for food, makes it a field that touches the lives of most consumers. The future of packaging has been a topic among experts from business consulting firm McKinsey, such as David Feber, Daniel Nordigarden and Nick Santhanam. These analysts point to key themes for future packaging, which include smarter, more personalized and reusable containers.

Smarter Solutions

Packaging affects a multitude of products found at supermarkets from food to personal care items. Prior to the 2020s, there wasn't much talk about making packaging more connected with digital technology. Bar codes have existed for decades, but with the advancement of IoT technology, it's now possible to embed digital communication sensors in packaging.

One of the main concerns about modern packaging of food, David Feber points out, is spoilage. Consumers also care about product authenticity matching what they see on the package. Another concern is about where the food comes from, which many consumers now expect to see on the label. In the future, people will learn deeper details about retail products using their smartphone to scan the package for information.

The use of digital print on packaging can enhance image quality in a way that intensifies the link between colors and emotion. Digital print works well for reproducing fine text, which helps a brand's image for shoppers who care about ingredients. New laws are helping pave the way for broader use of digital packaging, which allows a brand to print a unique code or image on packaging for each individual unit. It's an improved way for vendors to track authenticity of an item, as a measure to protect against product counterfeiting.

Personalized Packaging

The consumer experience of scanning packages at stores for information will include finding specific items on a shopping checklist. Through AI technology and secure databases that connect with packaging, a smartphone will pick up messages about store items that match the shopper's personal taste and purchasing history. Smart packaging will also alert shoppers to characteristics they like about packaging, such as whether or not it's edible.

Adaptive and customized digital print is a newly emerging means of personalization. This advancement involves printing QR codes on the outside of the package. Senior Expert Daniel Nordigarden believes future packaging will be so personalized that it will display customized messages for customers on their handheld devices. Printing unique digital identifiers on packaging is actually considerably less expensive than RFID tagging.

Reuse Considerations

Micro supply chains in some communities with a high demand for personalization and sustainable packaging requirements, according to Feber, may begin to blossom. He also believes that a growing emphasis on sustainability in society will lead to more common use of reusable packaging.

Metal packaging has lots of advantages from reusability to recyclability.

Path Ahead to the Future of Packaging

Consumers can expect to see many innovative changes in packaging in the coming years to create more direct connections with products. Digital print can work on all types of traditional packages, including metal, which is already among the most sustainable packaging solutions.

Brand owners will need to work closely with retailers at refining solutions that work best for customers. This relationship will be instrumental in determining pain points that limit consumers from making certain purchases.

Packaging with digital print will be a major key to brands becoming more closely connected with consumers. It will open the door to personalized marketing in ways never seen before in the commercial world. It allows for diversified marketing to reach broader audiences. Furthermore, it will help brands determine at a faster rate which products work best for certain market segments.

Brand owners can print directly on metal tins, which makes the process cost and time efficient. Digital printing on metal packaging can be accomplished in the packaging plant or at a later stage in the supply chain. 


Advanced intelligence sensing will play a significant role in future packaging. Brand owners need to develop ecosystems with partners that are on board with digital print technology to stay a step ahead of competitors. Ultimately, future packaging is about closer communication with individuals rather than a faceless crowd of consumers. No matter how brand owners will make their processes and product packaging fit for the future, metal tins are a likely candidate to be in the center of their innovation process.


References and Further Reading

[ 1 ] The future of packaging (2019), by David Feber, Daniel Nordigården , and Nick Santhanam 

Topics: Metal Packaging

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