Top 8 Packaging Trends to Watch in 2018

Top Packaging Trends 2018

Last year at this time I offered my view of key packaging trends that would impact our and our customers’ businesses in 2017. And by now I’m sure you’ve seen multiple articles predicting the top trends for 2018. That being said, I’d like to share the major trends Outlook Group is paying attention to as we begin a new year.


Label and packaging companies are responding to the market demand for more customization and personalization and are investing in the tool set to make this possible. 2017 was a tipping point in that there were more new narrow web digital press installations than flexo presses for the first time ever. A recent study conducted by label industry market research firm LPC, Inc. determined that new digital press installations in North America are growing at 11.9% per year while conventional press installations are contracting at an annual rate of 8-9%.

Outlook Group made its first significant investment in digital technology two years ago and has seen firsthand the consumer and operational benefits associated with digital technology. As technologies continue to advance, we look forward to bringing the benefits of digital print to our flexible packaging and folding carton segments.


Food traceability and complete transparency has become more important than ever for consumers. Expect to see packaging designs that enlighten consumers’ purchase decisions with succinct, easy to understand messaging and design elements to help consumers focus on the product qualities.

According to a recent Mintel packaging study, “50% of US consumers are interested in scanning food packaging to learn more about the provenance of fresh produce.” One rapidly expanding program meeting that need is SmartLabel™. Each product participating in SmartLabel™ has a specific landing page containing detailed information on ingredients and other product attributes.


E-commerce has taken a major share of the retail market and continues to expand. Although groceries lag home goods and apparel in online sales, it’s one of the fastest growing e-commerce segments. Today approximately 1 in 5 American households enjoy the convenience of ordering food online using curbside pickup or home delivery. And the success of meal subscription companies like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh hasn’t gone unnoticed. Expect to see additional prepared meal offerings and continued partnerships between grocers and meal kit companies.

We’ve seen the demand for convenient packaging for eating on the run for years now, and meal kits present a similar need for convenient, smaller package sizes. Outlook Group maintains a unique combination of flexible packaging, folding carton, label & contract packaging services and is able to provide an efficient “one-stop” solution for a diverse range of packaging needs. Furthermore, our G7 certified processes ensure consistent color match across those materials.


According to Jim Wisner, president of Wisner Marketing, “store brands are now more popular than national brands.” IRI’s research shows that two-thirds of consumers plan to purchase private brands more frequently in the next several months. Among millennials and lower-earning shoppers, three-quarters expect to buy more store brands during that time frame.

Retailers such as Aldi and Trader Joe’s have already demonstrated the popularity of store brands. And with Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and Lidl’s entrance into the US, expect to see more grocers capitalizing on consumers’ increasing comfort level with private brands.


With increasing competition, both National Brands and Private Brands and packaging designers are looking for ways to differentiate their products on the shelf. Vibrant colors, intense solids and unique finishes help packages stand out, and we are seeing increasing use of embellishment options such as foils, special varnishes, soft touch finishes and more.

Expect to see increasing use of interactive technologies such as augmented reality to expand brands’ engagement with their consumers. Outlook continues to invest in the tools and knowledge necessary to consistently deliver these embellishments and we look forward to seeing the creative ideas that our brand owners challenge us to produce.


Flexible packaging continues to grow faster than any other packaging format due to its premium branding, convenience, functionality and sustainability. Brand owners are excited about the opportunity to disrupt a category with a new package design that provides greater shelf appeal, is easy to store, easy to open and reseal, easy to carry, extends product life, and uses less material which provides shipping efficiency and optimizes e-commerce.

Flexible packaging delivers compactness and durable barrier protection, all while maintaining the lowest possible carbon footprint. In particular, stand-up pouches are being implemented in new categories for ease of opening and re-closure. Outlook Group is investing in flexible packaging, most recently in 2017 with the installation of a new solventless laminator and establishment of a raw material stock program to support 2-3 week lead times in our core markets. Our technical team stands ready to help you transition into flexible packaging.


More and more, companies and consumers are recognizing the important role packaging has in food safety, reduction of food waste and sustainability. Lightweighting and the use of recyclable materials will continue to be embraced with an added emphasis on clearly communicating the packaging disposal options on the label. We anticipate growing adoption of the How2Recycle label as brands look to communicate sustainable end-of-life options to their consumers.

One of the challenges of flexible packaging is that there are limited end-of-life options for the packaging. FPA is leading an industry effort to address end-of-packaging-use alternatives for flexible packaging including increasing resource recovery. Outlook’s R&D team is currently evaluating compostable film options for lidding and pouch applications and we look forward to launching those to the market in 2018.

Related: Outlook’s unique MICROLINER® and RVP label solutions offer the ultimate lightweighting potential in pressure sensitive labeling.


In May 2016, the FDA unveiled an updated Nutrition Facts panel that includes several changes to the previous version, including a requirement to declare added sugars and a revision of serving sizes from 8 to 12 ounces. In September, the FDA proposed extending the compliance deadline to January 1, 2020 for companies with over $10 million in annual revenues. Manufacturers with revenues less than $10 million will have one additional year to comply. However, it is in your best interest to align your nutrition labeling with the updated rules sooner than later as package designers and pre-press houses book up to fulfill greater demand for design services. Outlook Group’s pre-press resources are ready to help you implement the changes by the deadline.

So there you have it. My top 8 packaging trends to watch in 2018. I’m looking forward to watching the year unfold to see if my predictions are right! Feel free to comment below with your thoughts on any of the trends I’ve listed above, or any trends I may have missed.


Author – Joel Schmidt
Director of Market Development

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