More Than ‘Just’ Green was Mintel’s clear message across the six key global packaging trends for 2016 announced at the end of last year:

“Eco-responsible packaging that empowers social consciousness; clean-label messaging that enhances brand transparency and builds purchasing confidence; next-gen hybrids that offer functional and environmental benefits alongside great shelf presence; right-sized product packaging that meets consumer needs and shifting use-occasions; digital print that creates ‘hyper’ personal experiences and apps that support ‘mobile-engaged’ packaging, are the key themes we see resonating with consumers in 2016,” said David Luttenberger, global packaging director at Mintel.

And the trends have implications for both consumers and brands. “There’s a parallel path between brands striving to engage consumers on a more personal level and customers’ expectations for packaging to deliver that experience. Brands and manufacturers are innovating packaging to keep global consumers engaged and to develop brand loyalty which is becoming more and more intangible in an age where consumers have more choices than ever across all packaged goods.”

Despite brands’ best efforts, package recycling is well below its potential. Brands are searching for environmentally responsible packaging options and consumers are putting the onus on brands to do right by doing good by the Earth. The difficulty is that while consumers want it all, they aren’t willing to pay more to get it. Even basic recycling is too difficult for many. And most consumers don’t have a real understanding of what to do with compostable packaging.

Going forward, when product price and perceived product quality are equal, consumers will be increasingly turning to eco and alternative-use attributes as the deciding purchasing factor. Brands cannot afford to ignore this as they develop their brand positioning and marketing strategies, Mintel said.

First edible six-pack rings

What is beginning to resonate is a focus on alternative package material sources, which is exactly what Saltwater a small craft brewery in Florida has done. They just launched the first plastic-free, 100 % biodegradable, compostable and edible six-pack rings to hold beer cans. The rings are made from by-products of the brewing process such as wheat and barley and are efficient and reliable enough to support the weight and handling of the cans, according to Entelequia, a Mexican engineering firm that worked with Saltwater Brewery and New York-based ad agency We Believers to develop this unique alternative to plastic rings. The investment in the innovative six-pack rings imposed a higher price to the end product, but the price will drop once the big breweries get involved and demand increases. Inventions such as the edible six-pack rings, that will prevent choking to death thousands of marine seabirds, turtles, fish and other creatures may now cater to the 63% of US consumers who, according to Mintel, “have stated that reusable and repurposable packaging is a key purchasing driver they see as being yet another link in the long and complex green packaging chain.”

First Truly Compostable stand-up pouch

Another firm that has invested over four years looking for a sustainable packaging solution for its organic, fair trade and carbon neutral foods is Alter Eco. The French organic pioneer and trading firm founded in 1998 with operation facilities in France, the United States, and Australia sources its staples such as quinoa, cacao, rice, and sugar directly from small cooperatives in South America and other parts of the world.

Making a strong effort to remain as green as possible in every step of their global operation has been a mission for Alter Eco co-founders Tristan Lecomte (France), Edouard Rollet & Mathieu Senard (US), and Ilse Keijzer (Australia & New Zealand). A truly environmentally conscious packaging for the brand was missing. And with the recent shift to stand-up pouches with zipping locks across retail shelves in the organic and conventional food sectors, the team knew they had to follow this trend. The challenge was to find a better material for their pouches.

About 165 billion stand-up pouches were used around the world in 2014, Asia leading the way, with a 54 percent share of the global market and 88 billion stand-up pouches used the same year. Europe has 20 per cent of the market, while the US and Canada take a share of 12 per cent, said Jorg Schönwald, international packaging, plastics and environmental consultant in an interview with Plastic News.

The first fully compostable non-GMO plant-based pouch used for Alter Eco’s Royal heirloom quinoa was launched at the Sustainable Food Summit in San Francisco this year. The pouch is made from eucalyptus and birch wood pulp, non-GMO corn to control content humidity and it is printed with non-toxic ink.

Without the layer of corn the pouch would completely decompose on the shelf within three to six months. Under the patent pending Gone4Good™, this first-ever laminated plant-based compostable pouch aims to revolutionize the packaging food industry, helping to eliminate petroleum-based plastic that in spite of all recycling efforts is not really offering a sustainable alternative.

The innovative packaging attracted lots of attention at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, where it won the Best Product of the Year Award.

Biodegradable packaging market grows at 17.2 percent

According to Stratistics MRC, the Global Biodegradable Packaging Market accounted for $4.7 billion in 2015 and is growing at a CAGR of 17.2% to reach $14.3 billion by 2022, with huge population and favorable demographics the major factors driving the market growth.

The rising demand for conventional non-biodegradable plastic packaging (and recyclable) materials like PET proves to be one of the most crucial factors driving the market growth. The biodegradable packaging market is driven by fast growth of food and beverage packaging industries especially in promising economies such as BRIC countries as well as the developed economies of Europe and North America, Stratistics MRC said.