Shipping has become more important than ever as supply chain woes persist and e-commerce’s dominance grows. Amid this shift, businesses across many sectors must watch developing packaging industry trends to stay competitive and meet new needs.

As with many sectors today, the packaging industry is undergoing substantial changes. Here are eight of the most significant to watch in 2023.

1. Smart Packaging

One of the most important of these trends is smart packaging. This movement integrates digital technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) sensors into product packaging solutions. This serves many purposes for consumers and companies.

Built-in RFID tags or location sensors are some of the most useful examples. Supply chain leaders rank visibility as their top priority today, but many organizations still rely on manual inventory tracking methods. Packages with built-in systems that transmit their location and other data offer a solution, so they’ll see increasing adoption in 2023.

Other smart packaging solutions include active quality monitoring systems for food packages, QR codes and anti-counterfeit displays. New applications emerge regularly, and smart packaging will undoubtedly reshape the industry this year.

2. Digital Printing

Digital printing is another significant packaging industry trend for 2023. Conventional labeling methods like offset printing have been the industry standard for years, but they can damage boxes and are costly. More brands will turn to less damaging, faster and more affordable digital printing as shipping volumes rise.

Printing will increase as e-commerce grows since businesses need to stand out from a sea of competitors. Moving away from standard brown boxes is an excellent first step in that goal, and digital printing provides the most cost-effective way to do so.

3. Sustainability

It’s impossible to discuss industry trends in any sector and not mention sustainability. Eco-friendliness is becoming increasingly important to commercial and consumer clients, leading to rising demand for sustainable packaging.

Some packages, like poly mailers, can use 100% recycled materials to help offset their environmental impact. In other cases, businesses may look for novel packaging materials to move away from plastic and paper entirely. Reducing consumption by finding more resource-efficient ways to protect products in shipment will also help.

This trend will go beyond the packages themselves. Factories that make boxes will have to meet higher environmental standards, driving a push for renewable energy and more efficient workflows.

4. Mono-Material Packaging

The rising demand for sustainability will also drive the popularity of mono-material packaging. Many conventional solutions include multiple substances, like a cardboard box with plastic insulation, making it difficult to promote recyclability. Designing packages to use a single material instead will help.

Mono-material packaging combines insulation and exterior protections to simplify the overall package. Doing so makes it easier to capitalize on recycled or recyclable materials and may help cut material costs. Companies that embrace this emerging trend may also stand out to consumers, driving brand recognition amid increasing competition.

5. AI and Automation

Many of these packaging industry trends require challenging conventional thinking and finding alternate solutions to long-held standards. As a result, many companies will also turn to artificial intelligence (AI) to gain data-driven insights and streamline processes.

Amazon pioneered this trend, using AI to reduce cardboard waste by 60,000 tons annually by matching products to their ideal packages. Similar AI algorithms could suggest novel packaging materials to become more sustainable or find ways to streamline production lines. Automating quality control through machine vision will further reduce waste and shorten lead times.

Packaging companies that implement more IoT technologies have more data on their workflows. AI will help them capitalize on this information to optimize their operations.

6. Ongoing Supply Chain Issues

Trends in packaging affect other sectors’ supply chains, but the industry isn’t immune to its own shifts. Materials like paper and wood are still facing backlogs and delays stemming from COVID-related shutdowns, demand spikes and ensuing supply chain issues. These disruptions and their resulting challenges will linger in 2023.

Rising material prices and limited availability may make businesses rethink custom packaging. They improve brand recognition and reputation among consumers. However, in light of these challenges, companies may have to embrace customization through printing and subtle design instead of more complex packages. Finding ways to cut costs in other areas will also be necessary.

7. Minimalist Design

A less severe packaging industry trend to take note of in 2023 is a growing preference for minimalism. Streamlined, calming and elegant designs are becoming increasingly popular as a break from loud colors and saturated imagery, so more packages and labels will reflect that. In a crowded market, customers may also appreciate branding that’s more direct about what it is.

This trend may prove useful to businesses, too, as it lets them appeal to modern audiences while minimizing expenses. Minimalist packaging uses less material and ink, so companies may lean into this movement further to enable lower spending.

8. Tactile Packaging

Businesses will need to find new ways to stand out as minimalist design grows. E-commerce’s share of total retail sales is also steadily increasing, making it more important to make an impression with a product’s packaging, as that will be what many customers interact with most. Tactile packaging will become more popular as a solution.

Labels using techniques like embossing and cut-outs will stand apart from the flat packaging slips and tape online buyers are used to. Similarly, packages with unique textures may appear more natural or luxurious, helping improve brand reputations. These tactile differences also provide a way for companies to solidify their branding while avoiding over-the-top, maximalist colors and designs.

Stay on Top of Packaging Industry Trends

These packaging industry trends will shape what strategies prove most effective for businesses in 2023. Keeping track of them and adapting to these shifts will help companies maintain their positions and drive success in a changing market.

Some of these trends will grow faster than others, and new ones will emerge as the year progresses. Staying in tune with these changes is key to surviving in today’s fast-paced, disruption-prone industry. Adaptation can be challenging, but businesses that monitor these trends closely can make the most of it.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. She regularly covers trends in the industrial sector.