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Sustainability and online shopping drive packaging trends

Austin, TX— Packaging, including plastics, is entering a “new normal” where sustainability and e-commerce considerations will play an increasingly outsized role.

“I would like to argue that we are really entering a new trend and a new normal,” said David Feber, partner in the Detroit office of consulting firm McKinsey & Co., at the recent packaging conference in Austin. .

“If I could oversimplify and cut the last 22 years or so into three different sections, I think the first 10 years of this century were really about substrate wars. PET and plastic were growing; they were taking the share of glass and aluminum in some cases, as well as flexible packaging, stand-up pouches. There was strong growth,” Feber said.

“Over the next 10 years, we started to see durability become more focused. The main driver of durability was weight reduction and weight reduction, which was really a cost-cutting game, but also using less, which is good,” he explained.

“We started to see recycled content starting to trade above virgin and being put into materials. And we started to see the first kinds of e-commerce and digital commerce in the grocery category,” said Feber, who heads McKinsey’s packaging group. .

And then COVID-19 hit.

“During the pandemic, we really hit two big shifts that hit a tipping point. One was sensitivity to sustainability. At the very start of the pandemic, things kind of rolled back, where there was a sharp increase in single-use packaging,” Feber mentioned.

“And then there was a backlash and the world stood up and said enough is enough. And we’ve seen regulation and consumer commitments really at an all-time high. It’s really a new chapter. This it’s not like that’s been the case for the last 10 or 15 years,” he said.