As vendors look for innovative ways to stand out from the crowd and extend customer reach online, customer-facing & smart packaging elements are only two of many solutions. The packaging industry along with emerging startups offer extensive opportunities such as mobile-engaged, flexible and sustainable packaging.

Flexible and interactive packaging, in particular, drastically enhance the customer experience – serving both, customers in their on-the-go lifestyle and manufacturers in extending their product’s shelf life. With a highly competitive vendor landscape, the global packaging market will encounter steady growth over the next years. Furthermore, the global market will reach a value of 654.88 billion Euro by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 5.6%.

At StartUs Insights, we performed a comprehensive analysis of 700+ startups in the packaging industry to identify major innovation areas and the startups driving them. In this breakdown, we share actionable intelligence on the application and potential of the most disruptive of these technologies.

 


The global packaging market will reach a value of 654.88 billion Euro by 2020.

Interactive Packaging

Visual elements on packages are only one critical factor that influences consumers purchase behavior. Touch, defined by experts as the most triggering of human senses, is another element strongly linked to people’s willingness to buy and – perhaps even more important – to pay a higher price.

The most popular interactive packaging solutions are focused on providing consumers with an added value via interactions on top of the product itself. QR Codes, as well as packages that change their appearance and form in response to various stimuli or functional pressure, are the key drivers of this innovation area.

Blippar harnesses augmented reality (AR) and image-recognition technology to bring the physical world to life through smartphones, tablets, and wearables. The UK-based startup equips companies to use products, packaging and merchandising to activate interactive personalized digital content which users unlock by ‘looking’ at it through the app.

Interactive Packaging

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Flexible Packaging

Already seen in the food industry, flexible packaging has become a large-scale movement. As reclosable stand-up pouches have become omnipresent, packaging companies explore the next generation of convenient packaging.

Smaller, lighter, and more easily disposable packaging makes consumption on-the-go more effortless and satisfies consumers’ need for handy transportation. Increasingly busy lifestyles procure packaging companies to create and deliver a range of packages that customers see as fit for their use.

Munich-based can2close improves the concept of a beverage can by completely redesigning its closure system. The startup identified and refined a resourceful mechanism that not only allows for repeated sealing of a can but also offers the largest available opening.

Flexible Packaging

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Smart Packaging

Smart packaging relates to clever ways to package a product. We can identify two types of smart packaging: (1) interacting with a product and (2) adding additional information or functions to packaging, often in the form of sensors or communication features.

Tracking the expiration date of a product and notifying consumers when the product is close to this date as well as reminding users to use the product (drinking water, taking medication) are only two of the many use cases for smart packaging.

One example of a startup that concentrates on this area is Finnish MAGICADD. The company specializes in cost-efficient, high-volume smart packaging, making it a cheap and effective way of embedding intelligence in packages. Their system gives each individual product a dynamic and machine-readable identity that is managed with a cloud-based SaaS platform, enabling information about the product to be updated in the cloud during the product lifecycle.

 

Smart Packaging

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Sustainable Materials

The movement for sustainability grows as increasingly more people become conscious about the environment and look for eco-friendly and sustainable products. However, sustainability also refers to manufacturers and the production chain.

Frontier technologies in this area are directed at the development of advanced bio-based materials, reusable packaging and the production of packaging utilizing renewable energy. The competition of values has displaced price competition, which is why zero-waste packaging will become even more relevant in the near future.

In these terms, the startup PAPTIC® is a game changer. The Finnish company develops an original material replacing paper and plastic. The material is twice as durable as paper and weighs 30% less while being 80% biodegradable.

Sustainable Materials

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Custom Packaging

The idea behind custom packaging involves features that expand consumer engagement with the product and company behind it. Customization has quickly become an expectation in packaging rather than an extravagance, with companies turning to big data in order to target specific markets such as the geographical area or interests, slowly entering the area of mass customization.

Packaging companies already explore interactive ways of personalization, giving consumers the impression of making their mark on a product, getting into the sphere of co-creation. Personalization also has the potential to create a new source of revenue as consumers are willing to pay a higher price for custom packaging.

Pakible creates custom branded packaging. The startup makes it simple for any business to prototype and then ship product packaging – starting from 0,85 Euro. An online box designer software allows to choose the type and size of packaging and then customize it with text, logos, and colors.

Custom Packaging

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Social Branding

With a rising awareness for social causes, consumers reflect the values of a brand onto its branding efforts, including packaging. Companies that operate in a “responsible” and “ethical” manner in terms of fair treatment of workers and local sourcing of products are becoming more popular and customers are willing to pay a premium price for it.

A convenient way to communicate a company’s involvement in social causes is the use of QR Codes on packaging as the labels give immediate access to a community that is participating and purchasing the same products as they are.

Finnish RePack offers a sustainable and reusable packaging service for online retailers and shoppers. The startup develops delivery packages that can be conveniently and easily returned and then reused; enhancing customer experience and reducing waste.

Social Branding

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

The average consumer demand and expectation is growing, causing packaging companies to rethink their products in order to grow and keep up with the current direction. Other emerging innovation areas we recognized throughout our analysis include textured and intelligent packaging, holistic packaging, as well as fiber printing and micro-patterned packaging materials.

Technology advancements and resource scarcity are only two of the megatrends the packaging industry is facing today. Companies that act proactively and co-develop with disruptive startups to innovate and adjust their business model will gain a competitive advantage and emerge as industry leaders.


StartUs Insights provides actionable intelligence on startup driven innovation.
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