he COVID-19 pandemic has forced consumer-goods companies to change priorities and pause new product launches within several categories. This has had a direct impact on the global packaging industry, as brand owners not only required fewer redesigns but also deprioritized innovative packaging. However, as the world begins to emerge from the current public-health and economic crisis, we anticipate that brand owners will accelerate their product-launch plans to address untapped market demand. In parallel, the pandemic has also changed consumer behavior, sparking new demands on packaging performance. To manage through the next normal, companies in the $900 billion-a-year global packaging industry will need to raise their game to be competitive. In this article, we highlight five strategic areas for packaging players to address as they prepare for a flood of new product launches.
First, seek out growth opportunities within the e-commerce sector by developing packaging formats tailored to this particular market. The pandemic has accelerated e-commerce adoption in several key segments (particularly grocery), and e-shopping is expected to be the consumer behavior with the highest degree of postpandemic “stickiness.” Second, develop holistic solutions for sustainable packaging to address consumers’ increased demand for sustainable products: packaging companies need to go beyond the “must haves” (such as recyclability and recycled content) to integrate sustainability as a core element of their strategy. Third, focus on future consumer needs and changing habits by creating a packaging experience that plays beyond mere convenience. Next, ensure that the company’s asset footprint has the flexibility to accommodate increased SKU proliferation and complexity: for example, consider both long-run, decidedly cost-efficient business and short-run, highly customized work. Finally, embrace digital as a core component of the company’s strategic framework in areas ranging from customer interaction to enhancing manufacturing efficiency. We urge packaging companies to address these five imperatives as part of their strategy, while bearing in mind that a speedy, proactive approach is critical to creating value and capturing growth.