biodegradable compostable packaging - 2022 packaging trends

Sustainable Packaging Trends for 2022, Plus Other Packaging Features to Consider


Like 2020, 2021 was a year that brought both challenges and innovations to the packaging industry. Brands grappled with interruptions to the global supply chain, continued health concerns, and labor shortages, all while facing pre-pandemic challenges, such as shifting consumer preferences. At the same time, there was no shortage of packaging innovations. From flashy designs to compostable and biodegradable films, CPGs found ways to harness emerging technologies to enhance the consumer experience of their products.

In 2021 on the consumer side, we witnessed shoppers' continued inclination toward sustainable products, e-commerce channels, and premium packaging experiences. As the consumer push for sustainable products and their tendency to shop online continues to grow, we can expect, in the words of top packaging executives: "more of the same" in 2022.

Shifting from a talking point to a priority for numerous brands starting around 2019, sustainability is, perhaps, the top trend we can expect to grow in 2022. Here are some sustainability trends you'll want to consider as you determine packaging initiatives for 2022 and beyond. 

1. A Continued Emphasis on Recyclable Packaging

Sustainability has become a driver for change across industries, but it has had a particular impact on packaging. In recent years, companies had to strike a balance between sustainability, product protection, and the consumer experience — a feat that is often difficult to achieve. This challenge arose from changing consumer demands, as millennials and Gen Z in particular looked for packaging that was convenient, tactile, honest, and sustainable all at once. 

For several years, recyclability has dominated the sustainability conversation when it comes to packaging. Consumers have grown increasingly aware of the potential downsides of single-use plastics, leading big names like Coca-Cola to set sustainability initiatives to make packaging fully recyclable before 2025. 

In response to consumer demand and the interest of the circular economy, other brands have already moved toward 100% recyclable packaging. In 2019, for example, Kellogg launched a fully recyclable, reclosable flexible pouch for its Bear Naked® Granola products. As we continue to prioritize generating less plastics waste, we can expect consumers and brands alike to opt for recyclable solutions. In fact, a Future Market Insights report on the global packaging industry predicts that flexible paper packaging and biodegradable options will be on the rise for their recyclability. 

recyclable plastic package

However, as we've noted in the past, plastic doesn't necessarily mean "unsustainable." Source reduction and reuse, recyclability and compostability, and proper disposal are all key components of fully sustainable packaging — all of which the right plastic flexible packaging can often provide. Talk to us about your unique product and we can offer considerations to see if reclosable flexible packaging is the right fit for your needs. 

waste management hierarchy for sustainability

2. Compostable is the New Recyclable

mars wrigley announces compostable packaging for candy

While recyclability has been the main driver of sustainability initiatives, advancements in compostable packaging are so promising that retail giants like Walmart and Target plan to adopt it. By 2025, Walmart hopes to move to 100% recyclable, reusable, or industrially compostable packaging, with at least 17% of its private brand plastic packaging derived from post-consumer recycled content. Target has similarly ambitious sustainability goals, with a plan for 100% of Target-owned brand products to be "designed for a circular future." That is, to be recycled, regenerative, compostable, sustainably sourced, and to reduce virgin plastics. 

Mars Wrigley has partnered with Danimer Scientific to develop biodegradable and compostable packaging — both flexible and rigid — for its products. It's clear that major players are realizing the benefits of compostable packaging: not only can it provide the positive experience of flexible packaging, but it can also help close the loop when it comes to circularity. 

global compostable packaging market increasing

And, while there have been several advancements in compostable packaging films, we've also seen innovations in the premium packaging space. The Fresh-Lock team, for example, developed a fully compostable, reclosable zipper as part of its 8000 series of sustainable closures. This zipper offers the convenience features consumers expect from reclosable packaging, such as product integrity, tactile experiences, and easy open and reclosability, while meeting manufacturing challenges and new sustainability demands. Get in touch with us if you're considering compostable packaging formats and want to learn more about closure options. 

3. Eco-Friendly Alternatives in Packaging Materials and Printing

In addition to adopting recyclable and compostable materials, we're also seeing brands utilizing more eco-friendly raw materials, such as bamboo, rice husks, corn starch, or recycled consumer products. For example, in response to Styrofoam bans and the surge in takeout orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, some companies have moved to biodegradable packing peanuts or cornstarch clamshell takeout containers. 

In the CPG realm, eco-friendly inks and flexible packaging are gaining popularity. Water-based, soy/vegetable, UV, and even algae-based inks are sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based inks. These inks tend to have fewer volatile organic compounds and a smaller carbon footprint. Algae-based inks, for example, are estimated to reduce carbon emissions by up to 20% and are also resistant to UV light. 

Flexible packaging is also promising for the sustainable packaging segment. Reusable, economical, and lightweight, flexible packaging offers a low-energy alternative to rigid packaging and a better consumer experience, especially when combined with a reclosable zipper or slider. Experts predict that flexible packaging will continue to gain traction in 2022 and beyond:

“2022 is the year where flexible packaging will become more common. This type of packaging requires less energy and water to manufacture and gives businesses the freedom to customize. This means that no matter the dimensions of a product, flexible packaging can be used.” – Ismail Sutaria, Senior Consultant, Packaging at Future Market Insights (FMI)

Other Packaging Trends to Watch in 2022

Along with sustainability, it's safe to say that other trends are still going strong, as well. Market Research Future predicts that the child resistance packaging market will grow by 5.4% between 2022 and 2030. This growth comes out of the need for safer packaging, particularly for pharmaceuticals. Child-resistant closures, such as Child-Guard® track and sliders, will be paramount in innovation for this sector and present new possibilities for reclosable sustainable or small format packaging

We can also anticipate the continued use of augmented reality and digital packaging. As consumers increasingly seek distinctive experiences with their products' packaging, brands will likely continue to employ interactive features. While augmented reality provides the ultimate immersive experience, smaller interactive components like QR codes made a comeback last year. QR codes present a relatively easy, inexpensive way to add a digital component to packaging while extending the experience consumers have with your brand. 

Go Green with the Fresh-Lock Team 

Want to learn more about what "sustainable packaging" looks like for your brand? Browse sustainability insights on our blog, check out the 8000 series of sustainable closures for flexible packaging, or contact the Fresh-Lock team today. 

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