Top 4 Packaging Market Trends In 2021

by Josh Biggs in Business on 19th April 2021

If you’re a business owner with a physical product, you’ve likely spent a fair bit of time thinking about packaging. If you’ve looked at custom boxes, or you’ve wondered how to add a personal touch while using sustainable materials, then eyou’re already considering some of 2021’s biggest trends in the packaging market.

As the world enters a second year marked by the global pandemic, consumer habits are still markedly different than they were in 2019. In a report by the Consumer Brand Association on the “Post-Pandemic Outlook” for consumer packaged goods (CPG), the authors noted that Spring 2020 saw demand soar by more than 20% for CPG compared to a year prior. That demand tapered off over the rest of the year, but it was still around 10% higher than in 2019. They predict it will remain high in 2021—somewhere between 7.4% and 8.5%. 

What does this mean for the packaging market? Below are four trends that began last year and appear likely to stick around. Consumers are looking for ways to feel connected while shopping. They’re also looking for products, and packaging, that align with their values.

  1. Personalized and premium packaging

If you’re looking for a packaging company, it may be because you’ve already noticed the trend towards personalized and custom packaging over the last year.

Writing in early 2021 for Packaging Gateway, Jessie Paige notes that a wide range of retailers have seen demand grow for personalized and premium packaging over the last year, and they don’t anticipate that the trend will slow down in 2021. Why? People are looking for ways to “replace the personal touch they previously experienced in shops via home shopping.” 

One explanation is the desire to exchange meaningful gifts at a moment when personal contact is hard to come by. Personalized packaging can make people feel special, something that consumers are looking to provide for their loved ones, and themselves, during stressful times. 

  1. Unboxing and creating intimacy in packaging

For the packaging industry, the “unboxing” trend that began in the 2010s on YouTube was a gamechanger. Today, influencers use platforms like TikTok and Instagram to show off the products they’ve received, and the packaging they come in. 

The pandemic has encouraged consumers to support local businesses, and they’ve brought their “unboxing” expectations with them. While a big business can offer speed and efficiency that are hard to match, as a small business owner you can provide consumers with a unique and intimate experience. 

Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that you need to go all out on something elaborate if it doesn’t match your brand. What’s most important is to opt for something thoughtful that you can provide consistently, since a bad experience can drive a customer to post about their negative feelings online. 

  1. Use sustainable packaging for the circular economy

While the beginning of COVID-19 saw a return to some environmentally un-friendly packaging choices—like plastic bags and single-use food containers—consumers are pushing businesses to balance safety and sustainability.

Even five years ago, this trend was clear. Writing in Harvard Business Review in 2016, several authors discussed how to support a so-called “circular economy,” one that separates “economic growth from the extraction and consumption of scarce resources.” Instead, there’s an interest in making “existing resources productive for as long as possible.” 

For the packaging market, businesses should plan not just for 2021, but the future in general, determining how their products and packaging can better fit into a circular economy.

  1. Transparency and the importance of social change

Consumers are, according to the Consumer Brand Association, more concerned than ever before about the ethical and social impact of what they purchase. 

Packaging has a major role to play in shaping how consumers perceive a business. For example, consumers are increasingly interested in transparency, all the way from a company’s supply chain to how they choose to package their product. 

This is not just important for 2021, but likely for the future too. Consumers are increasingly interested in supporting companies that they see driving allegedly positive social change. Making careful, considered decisions about packaging can be a good way to signal that your business gets this.


By making some decisions about packaging, your business can prepare itself not just for 2021, but for the years to come as well. Packaging can communicate a personal touch, and ensure that your brand lines up with consumer interest in social change. You can also explore options now to make your business more sustainable and transparent later. This will benefit your company in sales and public image, as the four trends listed above show no sign of slowing down. 

Categories: Business