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Identica on Packaging Trends : Summer 2018

As post-Brexit vote price hikes continue to bite, consumers across the UK are opting for own brand products in increasing numbers. According to recent research by Retail Economics, 48% of 2,000 consumers questioned said they would switch to cheaper own-label alternatives if their weekly food shopping bills rose by 3%

However, although own-label penetration remains high in the UK, there are signs that both brands and own-label are losing as shoppers turn to the discounters to help them save money.

On top of this, increasingly, young shoppers are ‘shopping the periphery’, visiting the fresh and chilled aisles around the store perimeter and turning their backs on processed, ambient, and frozen offerings in other areas of the store.

So, we’ve been looking at packaging trends to see how both brands and own-label can connect better with customers, and work harder to grab and keep their attention in what is an increasingly competitive market.

Retro is back

Retro design speaks of the comfort of days gone past, and connotes authenticity, care, artisanal craft in the products, as well as a degree of honestly and simplicity, harking back to a time when life was simpler.

Packaging as art

We’ve seen even mass market brands depend less on signature colours, graphics, type and logos in favour of elaborate designs – sometimes by well-known’ artists. Carlsberg’s recent patterned cans certainly stood out amidst a sea of more predicable lager packaging.

Along with this we are seeing more hand drawn and illustrative designs, playfulness, doodles, to denote informality and character, which shares some of the same characteristics and effect of retro design.


There hasn’t been a school of thought that big bold colours, and colour blocking is the way to go. However, amidst the noise and clamour that this creates we are seeing packaging pastels, offering a softer, more comforting appeal, designed taking away stress of life, and of shopping.

Single signature colours

Think Cambells Soup – and look for the red can – think Cadbury’s – look for the purple patch. Although signature colours are probably still important, we read less and shop more buy eye. Colours now denote flavours, ingredients, and even moods, so brands have to work around this – in particular logos need to compensate to help guide us whilst working against multiple colour backgrounds and we recognizable by as a shape rather than as simply text.

Less is more

Increasingly, instead of crowding the pack’ front-face and bombarding the shopper, as as part of the general trend towards shopping without reading, we are seeing brands being much more considered about what they put on front of pack – also part of the trend to ensure packs are also e-retail ready.

This is tied into a general ‘clean-label’ trend where brands need to consider how to bridge the divide between enabling consumers to make confident purchasing decisions, without overloading them with information.

Transparent packs and/or packs where the product is displayed at least to some extent are expected to become more important to shoppers, to enable them to judge what they are buying by eye, rather than having to rely on some photoshopped (and probably inaccurate) image.

Conversational labelling

Although there is a trend to the contrary, sometimes text is used to engage shoppers (Waitrose ingredients) and sometimes to reassure shoppers about the product’s integrity (Simply Gum). Text does allow brands to express their personality if the words are carefully and sparingly chosen.


A plastic free world is clearly the major consideration here. Ekoplaza in Amsterdam have introduce a plastic free aisle across all 174 of its stores. Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May outlined measures to tackle plastic waste in her Government’s 25-year environment plan, including encouraging plastic-free supermarket aisles here too. And Iceland has pledged to go plastic-free on all its own-brand packaging by 2023.

Furthermore, the days of packaging and transporting air are over. As well as being recyclable, packaging is also become much more ergonomically efficient. Second life considerations for packaging are also growing.

We are also seeing brands being much more transparent about the sourcing and manufacturing ethics, as well as espousing causes that they think their audiences will also want to support, and so packaging is also having to carry some of these messages.

Flexible packaging is more of a consideration, delivering compactness and durable barrier protection, all while maintaining the lowest possible carbon footprint.


Easy open, resealable, easy to carry, easy sharing, preservation of freshness – these are all qualities that today’s consumers expect from packaging as our lives become less linear and more stressful.

Packaging needs increasingly to survive the additional rigours of on-line retailing transportation too, and we could soon see technology enabled packaging to help us monitor consumption and freshness too.

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