Trends 2015: sustainability and individuality

Every year Pro Carton compiles the most important trends of leading institutes for research into the future in terms of packaging. Pro Carton President Roland Rex explains what these trends signify for packaging and cartons in particular. The most comprehensive trend 2015: "Retail is everywhere." JWT Intelligence, the research division of communication agency JWT, sees the retail trade as probably the most important trend in 2015: "Retail is everywhere". Virtually the entire population of the earth will soon own a smartphone and so allow action at all times: for example, viewing, obtaining information, comparing prices, ordering and picking up the order on the way home or to the hotel: these steps have merged into a seamless process which can take place anywhere and at any time. "Shopping is shifting from an activity that takes place in physical stores or online to a value exchange that can play out in multiple new and novel ways. Since almost anything can be a retail channel, thanks largely to mobile technology, brands must get increasingly creative in where and how they sell their goods", says JWT. Roland Rex comments on this as well as all other trends: "The weighting and significance of the advertising and marketing instruments continues to change at a fast pace. Packaging, and in particular cartons, are rapidly becoming the central, linking medium in an environment undergoing constant change."

Individual products – and packaging

"Post-Demographic Consumerism“ is the diagnosis of the international Trendwatching Institute: "People – of all ages and in many markets – are constructing their own identities more freely than ever." The consequence is a powerful and increasing fluctuation of target groups, more differentiated than ever before, never static and partly overlapping. For Roland Rex there is a clear message: "This fluctuation is expressed via the world of brands and products and is largely communicated through packaging." JWT sees a trend to "Me Brands": "A clutch of new platforms invites consumers to create personalized and local "brands" in their own image—recognising the sharing economy’s growing desire for personalisation, collaboration and consumer entrepreneurship. Consumers are increasingly starting to think of themselves as brands, curating their online image and monetising it through social media clout, micro-retail platforms and YouTube. They’re also using new platforms to become micro-entrepreneurs. This is a way for brands to connect with this spirit and empower it.“

Individual services

Customisation has also taken a hold in the field of providing services. The Future Institute comments: "A decisive driver in this connection is the megatrend toward customisation. For decades, societies across the globe have been evolving on the basis of a new self-understanding: the conviction that every person has the right to organise his/her life according to their own design." "In a digitally linked world, future services must be comprehensive, omnipresent and, above all, unobtrusive. Future service must be adjusted to the specific needs of the individual, yet everything needs to function at a holistic and higher level. This meta-service has been made possible by extensive digitalisation in all walks of life. Due to the change from target group approach to situational consumption, the customer is no longer simply a consumer, but also becomes a sender. He "sends" the requirements needed at a given moment – and modern providers of goods need tob e able to react."

Owning less, sharing more

The Trendwatching Institute also sees a growing sharing community: "In 2015, the Internet of Things and the Sharing Economy collide to allow a whole new world of asset sharing: spontaneous, useful, fun, profitable and more. The Collaborative/‘Mesh’ economy has long been predicted, but the coming months will see it start to become a consumer reality via the internet of sharing things." Sharing is the road to personal luxury. The sharing economy is growing up, formalising services and aligning with upscale brands and big business. This started with living: Airbnb is expanding its brand beyond the digital world, launching a glossy coffee-table magazine, Pineapple, in 2014 and collaborating with the London Design Festival on an interiors exhibit. As Airbnb users top 10 million, the company is moving away from its couch-surfing roots and evolving into a credible hospitality service that consumers rich and poor, Millennial and Boomer, are embracing."

En route to a circular economy

The Future Institute concludes: "Environmental protection, saving resources, CO2-reduction, Corporate Social Responsibility – the megatrend Neo-Ecology is shifting the coordinates of the economic model in the direction of a new business ethic and the meanwhile frequently quoted Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS)." The latest McKinsey Report on "Sustainability & Resource Productivity“ already discusses the circular economy openly – for the same reasons: "Why should businesses move toward a circular-economy model? First, because global economic pressures, such as rising resource prices and a fast-growing global consuming class, are changing the status quo. Second, because it’s good for business.“ A revolution which is bound to take place in the opinion of Roland Rex, President of Pro Carton: "The path to a real circular economy is still miles away for many industrial sectors. Not so for the cartonboard and folding carton industry: we are much closer to this goal as we are dealing with a renewable resource which can also be recycled at a very high level."

Businesses acting in place of politics

"Consumers are increasingly discriminating between brands by looking for ethical behaviour and sustainability. They are also looking for brands and companies with clear values“, states JWT. Trendwatching describes this trend as "Branded Government": "2015 will be the year for progressive brands to initiate, undertake or support meaningful civic transformation. In fact, 73 % of Millennials (people who were teens at the turn of the century) don’t believe governments can solve today’s issues alone, and 83% want businesses to get more involved.“ A development already heralded by Tim "Mac" Macartney at the ECMA-Pro Carton Congress in September 2014. Brands must be more courageous and committed, they need to profile their personality with new means so as not to drown in general boredom. "Packaging is no doubt the ideal medium for communicating appropriate messages", is Roland Rex's summary. "No matter where the point of sale is, in a store or on the Internet, the product is generally contained in a carton which communicates the brand message because it offers the product perfect protection and offers great diversity in terms of design. And this trend will increase because cartonboard happens to be the packaging material best suited to a circular economy." Sources: IGD Grocery JWT Thompson Zukunftsinstitut