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eCommerce Packaging Trends: Industry Insights

  • 16th February 2022
  • 7 min read

Over the last few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an extreme impact on consumer and shopping behaviour, drastically changing retail and eCommerce packaging

Shops up and down the country were forced to close down due to government-imposed lockdowns, and several brick and mortar stores had to adapt their business to work online in order to continue bringing in sales and therefore income. 

We’ve seen a knock-on effect in packaging for the retail and eCommerce industry. Find out more below. 

Sustainable packaging will become commonplace

Attitudes towards sustainable packaging are slowly changing for the better. 

With the Plastic Packaging Tax coming into fruition in April 2022, eCommerce and retail businesses dealing with more than ten metric tonnes of plastic packaging in a 12-month period will have no choice but to opt for plastic packaging with over 30% recycled material otherwise, they risk a fine. 

The aim of this tax is to increase the demand for recycled plastic (therefore reducing the demand for non-recycled plastic), thus decreasing the amount of plastic ending up in landfills. 

As more retail and eCommerce companies do all they can to meet this levy, we predict this change in attitude will impact other packaging materials, as businesses start to look at how they can reduce their impact on the environment overall. 

Find out more about sustainable packaging in our ultimate guide. 

… and attitudes towards plastic packaging will change 

As more retail and eCommerce companies move over to plastic packaging with 30% recycled material, we suspect there will be a knock-on impact as they offer instructions to their consumers on how to recycle or even repurpose this packaging. 

As a result, the attitudes towards plastic will change, because people will know what is recyclable and how to recycle 

We’ve all seen news articles where journalists blame plastic for the demise of the earth. All 

too often, plastic gets a bad (w)rap and is seen as the root of all evil, but that’s not always the case. 

Plastic is a really useful material that offers a vast range of benefits including: 

    • Durability - the right plastic packaging can keep foodstuff fresh and protect products such as electronics, ensuring your products turn up to your customers or store shelves in the best shape possible. 
  • Plastic can be sustainable - recycling rates in the UK are rising - whilst we only recycle 45% of plastics in the UK, this figure is slowly growing. Additionally, most types of plastic are recyclable.


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There will be a shift towards closed-loop recycling

The UK government is pushing recycling onto a wide range of industries, so we won’t be surprised to see more conversations surrounding closed-loop recycling.

Closed-loop recycling is common in specialised industries such as electronics or batteries, with complex or expensive products that can’t be broken down with ease but can be reused. 

We’re already seeing movement in the retail industry to close the loop on product recycling. 

For example, big retailers such as H&M offer a Reuse and Recycling scheme where they offer financial incentives for customers bringing in old clothes. 

Additionally, eCommerce brands such as Asos and Pretty Little Thing already utilise recyclable plastic packaging.

Another great example is premium coffee company Nespresso. They also close the loop with their coffee capsules

Made out of 100% recyclable materials, they offer a drop-off and collection service for used Aluminium coffee pods, so that the material can be reused and made into other products. 

As more retailers and eCommerce brands start to think this way, we’ll see a change in packaging requirements when it comes to how companies choose their packaging, keeping closed-loop recycling in mind. 

Packaging with health and hygiene in mind will thrive

Coronavirus and other transmissible viruses are here to stay; as a society, there’s a consistent conversation on how we can reduce the spread of infectious disease, and we’re already seeing this conversation affect packaging choices. 

Both retail and eCommerce are high touch (and even high footfall) industries, with products and packaging going through several hands and touchpoints before they get to the consumer. Product packaging will also take a more hygienic approach. 

Anti bacterial coating can be used on printed materials and labels, helping eliminate the transmission of virus.  For example, we’re seeing innovation in the makeup industry, with testing and research into how products are dispensed and applied. From push-down airless dispensers touch-free powder products,  airless application devices and 360° metal rollable balls that offer touch-free application, product and transportation packaging is becoming more sanitary. 

Retailers and eCommerce will opt for value-added packaging suppliers 

The pandemic had a significant impact on the supply chain, impacting the packaging industry. Costs of raw materials rose significantly due to increased demand, with the industry having increases month on month, meaning prices are now at an all time high. 

In addition the cost of pallets, labour, fuel, transport and utilities have all had an impact on the price of packaging overall.  Also the UK rate of inflation more than doubled in April 2021, (going from 0.7% in March to 1.5% in April), driving prices even higher. 

Now, retailers and eCommerce businesses have to balance the rising cost of packaging with consumers who are becoming increasingly price sensitive. 

As a result, more and more business owners will find ways to make their packaging do more and work harder, enhancing the brand and advertising upcoming promotions.  From ensuring their packaging meets the right specifications and even the transition of packaging products, the demand for packaging consultants will rise, as retail and eCommerce companies try to find the best possible packaging solutions to fit their needs.

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Speak to our expert packaging consultants 

As retail and eCommerce continue to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing market, it can be difficult to find the right kind of packaging that works for your business.

Businesses such as Titan Packaging will review your packaging process from start to finish and help you transition to a more sustainable, cost-effective packaging process that follows the plastic tax guidance. Speak to one of our experts.

Written by: Samantha Hanson Procurement Director

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