Current Trends For Packaging And Packaging Printing In Europe

Western Europe is the world’s third-largest market for packaging after Asia and North America. The factors that will govern it in the coming years are as unsurprising as they are ubiquitous.

The overarching influence for the sector is the EU’s Green Deal, which is committed to reducing packaging waste and unnecessary packaging, as well as increasing re-use and recycling by providing ambitious long-term targets. These topics bring in their wake the need for good quality recycled plastics and the use of sustainable materials.

Also, digitalization continues to shape the packaging sector, as it does so many other industries.

Sustainable Packaging

The desirability of sustainable packaging in the supply of goods is being heightened from every angle, including governments, product manufacturers and the public. The public’s rising awareness of environmental responsibility is championing demand for bio-based and recyclable packaging, to the extent that they would happily pay a premium price for products supplied in packaging that is better for the environment.


Digitalization within the packaging sector translates into new and more efficient opportunities for all parts of supply chain, from initial packaging design to package receipt and opening.

Upstream in the chain lies the opportunities for greater digital integration between packaging designers, pre-press specialists and printers so that they work on and develop concepts and designs concurrently, making the entire design process less time-consuming through more access to shared data. It also reduces the incidence of missteps early on.

Downstream aspects of digitalization include the shift to labels that can be scanned and read by technology, and ultimately the incorporation of QR codes that benefit consumer-supplier interaction for manual downloads and so on.

Other Trends Shaping the Packaging Sector

Besides the mega-trends of recycling, re-use and digitalization, design trends aimed at consumer experience and involvement play parts in the modern competitive landscape. Some of the collective trends that have been identified by industry researchers that will influence the coming years are set out below:

• E-commerce brings its own requirements for packaging design and e-commerce packaging is emerging as a sector in its own right, where packaging design is conceived specifically for that intended use by companies that sell on-line. 

The need for special designs in this segment takes place across an ever-changing backdrop of technical, legislative and business influences; the packaging must be designed with flexibility, protection, robustness and strength in mind, so that the product reaches the consumer intact after transit. These demands require lightness without compromising quality.

At that point of delivery, the consumer experience has to be engaging so that the opening process adds to the enjoyment of opening the product. The rate of product returns is also quite high in the e-commerce sector, dictating that packaging must be strong enough to survive a return journey.

Sustainability also has a hand in the e-commerce packaging sector as single-use plastics are now considered undesirable. In the future, these will give way to the greater use of bio-based plastics and expanded polystyrene (EPS). The major drivers in this area are huge online retailers such Amazon.

• Haptic design is gaining ground so that consumers have a more tactile experience when choosing products. Examples of how this is used are raised printed type, foil embossing or creative cutting that make the packaging more exciting and enjoyable to hold.

This area is witnessing shifts away from luxe-end products and into the mainstream. Once again digitalization has a role in this, which opens up possibilities for small companies to get in on the trend. The perception of quality is the main association here.

• Minimalism is also creating a buzz within industry, especially given the urgency to reduce packaging waste. The challenge here is to not reduce the consumer’s experience when it comes to opening products; the packaging-consumer interaction must not be sacrificed into the bargain, therefore it will demand creative ways to keep the product attractively and engagingly packaged while aiming for simplicity overall.

• 3D printing technology opens up high-tech access to the development of custom-made shapes. This has especial value in the packaging of goods that might have unusual contours and profiles, and can also be implemented to overcome some of the challenges that are posed faced by producing containers of more complex morphologies, which might be more elusive when approached through conventional industry techniques.

• Nostalgic trends are seen by researchers as conveying security to consumers and this is being witnessed through retro influences from the 1950s, 1970s and 1990s. Some of this desire for security and familiarity has been prompted by the ways in which our lives have been shaken up by the COVID years.

• Seamless designs on packaging that run continuously from front to back and to the front again are also emerging. Hence 360° designs like these offer distinct advantages that make a striking visual difference when it comes to shelf appeal.

• Smart packaging is also making gains, especially for food where sensors can be used to indicate ambient factors such as temperature and humidity. Smart packaging of food can also allow consumers to access nutritional data on the products they contain.

• Food packaging is increasingly shifting towards designs that illustrate the food contained inside in the box. The trends here are towards simple styles of illustration that are accomplished through the use bright colors.

• Personalization is increasingly valued by consumers and its demand for fast turnaround and rapid changeover is ideally suited to the digital print sector.

Digital Printing Unites It All

Digitally printed packaging is expected to make huge gains in the coming years, with a host of advantages for industry. Strong growth in commercial packaging can be fulfilled by employing digital printing technology and helps to reduce installation waste.

Other advantages of digital printing directly onto packaging materials such as paper, cardboard and transfer films enhance its attractiveness for low-volume packaging and make small-and-medium-sized prints more cost-effective.

The trend towards personalization is also assisted by digital printing technology as it helps companies to effect greater client interaction while also enhancing brand image for companies. Distinctive printed designs on different materials and products is another advantage that tips the balance further in favour of digital printing.

These are some of the trends that have been highlighted for the future of the packaging printing sector by Future Market Insights, in the new report Digital Printing Packaging Market, 2023-2033. So attractive are the benefits of digitally printed packaging that the value of the sector is expected to increase by 66% between 2023 and 2033 – a sure indication of the right technology being harnessed at the right time. Now!

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