FMCG and retail at a glance – Top 5 packaging trends with sustainability focus

Image source: Faithie, Shutterstock

We are in the midst of a sustainability revolution. The drivers of this disruptive development are no longer just the expectations of consumers and the increasingly strong and specific pressure from regulators. Top FMCG companies and retailers have long since committed themselves to ambitious sustainability goals. We have analyzed these self-commitments for you and consolidated our findings into the top 5 trends in FMCG and retail. From the trends, implications for the packaging industry, strategy recommendations and guidelines for concrete action can be derived.


In view of the many and very specific directives and regulations within the framework of the European Green Deal and the unbroken consumer preference, branded companies and retailers are positioning themselves as pioneers of the sustainability path. Their goals are not just on paper, but are being driven forward intensively.


Big Player – Big Impact

With their self-imposed sustainability goals, the big players from brands and retail have become the drivers with the greatest and most direct impact on the packaging industry. Their formative role on the entire value chain makes it exciting and worthwhile to take a closer look at the voluntary commitments. What do they entail and how should they be implemented?

This knowledge can be used to identify impacts, requirements and opportunities. We summarize the top 5 for you in compact form in this article.


#1: 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable

Packaging is designed to avoid littering the environment as much as possible. They are to be reused, recycled or composted after use.


#2: Use refill and reusable

Reuse models include refill models (for example, via refill stations) and reuse solutions (for example, reusable packaging). FMCG and retailers are trying to increase the share of reusable packaging in their portfolio.


#3: Substitution or reduction of the use of plastics

An increasing number of brand owners are committing to a 50 percent reduction in their use of plastics by 2025, and are increasingly turning to fiber-based solutions to achieve this goal. Plastic content is being substituted completely or to a large extent. Where plastic continues to be used, attention is being paid to eliminating problematic (toxic) plastics.


#4: Decoupling from the consumption of finite resources

The increasing use of post-consumer recyclate (PCR) or bioplastics in plastic packaging is another eye-catching measure to achieve the sustainability goals we have set for ourselves.


#5: Reduction of the packaging carbon footprint

The reduction of the carbon footprint is becoming increasingly important. Factors such as transport weight and volume, source and quantity of raw materials, packaging materials, energy, water and, where applicable, chemicals consumption are included in the overall consideration. The corresponding key figures are considered along the entire value chain.


Innovations make the difference.

As part of the design strategies for sustainable packaging of FMCG companies and retailers to achieve the sustainability goals they have set themselves, innovations along the entire value chain play a prominent role – from raw material extraction to production, distribution, use and disposal.

What is sought and needed are new, smart and circular solutions that fulfill all the functions required in each case, from barrier properties to differentiation and purchase incentive at the POS.

Innovations of this kind provide the best arguments for acquisition and growth – especially in a market that will remain characterized by price pressure and commoditization even in revolutionary, disruptive times.


Opportunities especially for first movers and fast followers

The opportunities are great, especially for those who lead the way. The opportunity to be among the winners of the sustainability revolution is still real. Where only one in ten companies has actually moved so far, the opportunities for leaders and fast followers to make the difference and build a lead are increasing.


Conviction, commitment – and expertise

Anyone who wants to take advantage of these opportunities must approach the change in their own company strategically, emphatically, without further loss of time and with the right partner at their side. What is needed are conscious decisions based on a deep and broad knowledge of the market. Only then can one’s own position, one’s own business model and one’s own product portfolio be efficiently and successfully aligned with the new reality.

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    Oliver Smith
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