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2021 Packaging Predictions

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The year of perfect vision probably didn’t play out quite like you foresaw. Did you expect to work from home more, watch your friends become bakers on social media, scour the grocery store for toilet paper, cook more meals at home, do most of your shopping online, or make purchasing decisions with extra attention to health and hygiene? 

While this past year might have taught us all to be more flexible, the behavior and purchasing trends of 2020 give us some solid predictions about the future of 2021. At The HiveSM, we’re using our research knowledge of consumer behaviors and packaging trends to inform our 2021 Packaging Predictions. Read on to discover seven trends we think will impact the packaging industry in 2021: 

Subhead 1
During the spring of 2020, we started to see giant increases in online purchasing. For example, May 2020 e-commerce sales increased 24% from April.1 Many consumers were motivated to make online purchases for the very first time and became comfortable with digital purchases. Consumers who once adapted to change out of necessity will continue to purchase online out of desire. We believe e-commerce will continue to thrive due to consumer desires such as ease and safety and enhanced brand engagement online. 

2.    Gifting Statement Packaging
Just because large gatherings were limited in 2020 doesn’t mean people stopped celebrating life events. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, retirements – these milestones and many more still took place. Loved ones want to celebrate together even if they can’t be together. When it comes to gifting in 2021, consumers will gravitate towards packaging that makes a statement and conveys sentiment. Presentation matters, and if the packaging conveys sentiment, it’s likely to be added to the shopping cart. 

3.    Get it “Just Right” 
Were you thinking about me when you made this product? “Yes!” say the smart brands that have done their market research. People love personalization and want to feel like a product and package is “just right” for their wants and needs. The portion size, branding, and engagement elements should all tell the 2021 consumer that they were thought of in the making of the packaging. 

4.    Sustainability Persists 
Last year GlobalData called sustainability the “most important theme for 2020,”2 and demand for sustainable packaging and products isn’t going away. As The HiveSM works with customers and surveys consumers, we’re seeing that sustainable packaging options are no longer a “want to have” but a “need to have.” Consumers will continue to make purchasing decisions with the environment in mind. 

5.    Clear Communication about Recyclability of Packaging 
Consumers don’t want to stand beside waste bins internally debating which packaging component goes where. At The HiveSM, we’ve heard consumers say they want clear communication about how to dispose of packaging. Is it recyclable? Should the lid be removed before recycling? Should the packaging be cleaned before recycling? Any instructions you have about how to properly dispose of your packaging should be clearly worded and displayed. The busy consumer who also strives to make sustainable choices will thank you. 

6.    It’s Tech Time 
With smartphones and technology, the experience of a product and brand can extend beyond the physical dimensions of packaging. The tech-savvy consumer is increasingly receptive to experiential packaging elements such as QR codes, gamification, and augmented reality. Implementing these technological components leverages creativity in engaging consumers. Plus, adding a technological component allows brands to create unique packaging without always commissioning a new packaging format. It’s tech time in 2021! 

7.    That Quarantine Lifestyle 
Did you complete a home improvement project, get pet food delivered, cook frozen foods, or give in to the snacking munchies while you worked from home in 2020? You’re not alone. And while we’re all hopeful for great things in 2021, the consumer behaviors induced by COVID-19 won’t completely change with the calendar. Many consumers have formed long-term habits.3 For example, we’re expecting to see fast-casual cooking at home outlast the virus. Of course, this means an increased demand for all the packaging associated with this behavior change. 

Gain a Partner in the New Year! 

These seven packaging predictions are a great place to start as you plan for 2021, but they’re just the beginning of understanding consumer behavior. You have a brand story, unique products, and a target audience. The Hive℠ Design Services is ready to help by designing custom research programs to uncover your customers’ brand connection, preferences, pain points and usage behavior, while revealing themes that you can use to build your strategy for enhancing consumer engagement and brand loyalty. Our certified moderators, researchers, and packaging specialists will build the qualitative and quantitative studies you need to test your concepts at scale, from insights to prototyping.

For more information on how we can help you convert insights to opportunities, email us at or visit our page



1 Kleckler, A., Progressive Grocer. “E-commerce Sales Records Shattered in May.” 2020.
2 GlobalData. “Thematic Research: Sustainability (2020).” (Subscription Required), 2020. 
3 Kradel-Weitzel, M., Dieline. “What Current Consumer Behavior Can Tell Us About the Future of Packaging. 2020.