Packaging trends 2021

Packaging trends in 2021 and beyond

Just as products and consumables have adapted and evolved over time, so too has the packaging in which they sit. In recent years, with exponential advances in technology, increased environmental concerns, and a modernised design landscape, we have witnessed some of the biggest leaps in manufacturing ever seen, and packaging stands in the forefront position to both highlight and celebrate this innovation. In the following, I will pick out and explore some of the key packaging trends that we have seen emerging as we move into 2021 and beyond.


The year 2021 has seen brands and retailers take considerable action around the sustainability of their products. It should therefore come as no surprise that packaging is one of the main targets of this eco-friendly mindset and we will undoubtedly see a huge reduction in the use of plastics with more and more brands opting for biodegradable, compostable or recycled materials. Furthermore, showcasing any steps towards a greener future will also be a key packaging trend – gone are the days of tiny recycling symbols on the back of a package.

Brands are proud of their sustainability efforts and aware of how important they are to consumers, as Swiftpak notes, 74% of consumers indicated they would actually pay a higher amount for products that were contained within environmentally safe and sustainable packaging. They will therefore make sure any messaging is highly visible. This visibility is not however limited to claims and symbols, and more and more brands are starting to emphasise sustainability through the feel and colour of their packaging. 2021 packaging will see more earthy textures, as well as more browns, greens and neutral colours that scream eco-friendly.


The use of E-commerce has been steadily rising over the last few years and has recently seen an unprecedented wave of growth sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic opened many consumers eyes to the potential of online shopping, and this type of purchasing behaviour is likely here to stay.

It therefore makes sense that packaging has had to adapt to this ever-growing consumer channel, counteracting any negative connotations associated with online shopping, such as faulty or damaged items, products untrue to their descriptions, and poor quality. Therefore, in 2021 packaging is being made with the focus of deliverable suitability – meaning sturdy and supportive casing in order to protect the contents, but also quality materials and trendy designs to make the eventual receiving of the product all the more pleasurable.

Online shopping evokes delayed gratification, a psychological principle that supports a correlation between anticipation and reward. Brands are increasingly looking to tap into, and further enhance this reward with appealing packaging, making consumers feel as though they are receiving a gift.


Technology is another field that has seen rapid advancement recently and particularly going into 2021, and some of the most cutting-edge products have started to reinforce their brand image by incorporating technology into their packaging, creating augmented experiences. Swiftpak note that AI and digital games are all upcoming packaging trends, including the 3D rendering of packaging artwork and interactive tours, allowing customers to interact with packaging in unique ways.

By incorporating interactive online experiences through QR codes, brands will be able to easily provide content and information to their customers. Settling firmly into the age of the smartphone, this is something we expect to see a lot more of when it comes to packaging, as brands look to modernise their image, and utilise technology available to hand.

Personalisation & storytelling

Shopping is increasingly becoming an experience rather than a simple commodity, and consumers have ever-growing expectations. A simple way in which brands can deliver an experience for shoppers and encourage brand loyalty is through personalisation.

The digital age has made custom packaging achievable, and we are seeing more and more brands exploring this route, proving a unique offering centred around the consumer. Another technique we see brands applying with their packaging in order to evoke an experience, is storytelling.

Packaging has gone way beyond simply looking pretty as we move into 2021, and we are seeing more storytelling than ever before. This may be in terms of the brand itself, using packaging to convey their mission, ethos, and history, or indeed with the use of characters and illustrations.

Packaging is increasingly becoming an extension of the product that sits within, so brands are taking more care to ensure packaging lives up to and simulates the effort that has been taken to produce the product inside, once again with the consumer top of mind.

Modern art

Finally, when it comes to the visual design, a lot of packaging in 2021 can be seen to be going down a modern art route, we are seeing a lot of colour-blocking or solid all-over colour, simple geometry, and even blueprint style ink drawings. Once again brands want to impress with their packaging to further amplify the product it contains.

We are seeing more design hints alluding to what is inside, but in artistic and creative ways such as simplified or abstract drawings of the product itself, or with the use of relevant shapes, for example, as 99 designs note, packaging for a tortilla chips brand may include simple triangles in its design reminiscent of the product.

Bold and colourful packaging designs not only help products to stand out on shelf but also aid processing fluency for consumers. The ultimate goal of packaging is to demonstrate design flair whilst simultaneously showcasing the product or brand in a way that is both attractive but also coherent for consumers.

How we can help

At Spark Emotions, our Brand, Pack and Media area of expertise is able to help you really understand how your consumers feel about packaging. With an ever-growing competitive landscape, brands have a need to stand out and be noticed. Understanding what pack elements are working well and what could be strengthened is paramount to success.


99 Designs


Written by Holly Adams, Research Manager at Spark Emotions.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Holly via email or connect with her on LinkedIn

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