Future of Packaging

Packaging is important for all producers and retailers of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG).

Packaging design and manufacture combines choice of materials, formats and functionality features with decorative techniques and the need to minimise environmental impact.

The Retail Institute’s research on the Future of Packaging goes back many years, drawing from diverse engineering, business, technological and social science perspectives. We monitor consumer trends and develop insightful methods for researching specific packaging solutions. In recent years, as plastic pollution has become a greater concern for consumers, we have helped retailers and manufacturers to find alternative materials and formats and supported their decision-making during times of new priorities and legislation.

Water in Tetra Pak 'Boxed water is better'

Sustainable packaging

Plastic pollution appeals to the very heart of consumers who now question whether everyday packaging products should be eliminated or replaced with environmentally friendlier solutions. The retail packaging industry must respond to this challenge without losing functionality or creating other kinds of environmental damage.

The Retail Institute aims to inform the future strategies of companies who wish to undertake the journey to more sustainable products and operations. We monitor both consumer attitudes and technological advancements to keep our network fully informed. Businesses gain knowledge through both bespoke projects and the varied memberships outputs that we offer.

Shelves full of colourful food tins

Sensory product interactions

We use all our senses when making purchase decisions. For packaging, the relationship between vision and touch is especially important and sensory informed designs can enhance product experience.

Our multidisciplinary research investigates the interaction of senses and their impact on the customer journey. We can help businesses to learn about the tactile stimuli of their products, how other senses moderate these interactions and, in addition, the role of our senses in an online retail setting. We do this by using methods such as scoping reviews and advanced consumer experiments to identify the most important aspects of packaging interactions.

Recyclable packaging on a rail

Packaging and the consumer decision

The environment now sits alongside functionality and price in importance to consumer decision making. Packaging has always had multiple jobs including protection of goods and promotion of brand characteristics. It must now achieve these things while reassuring the customer that its manufacture and disposal minimises environmental costs.

Our understanding of the full range of packaging attributes informs all our research and membership outputs, providing businesses with both the manufacturer and consumer perspective. Such insight also enhances our research into consumer behaviour, helping us to ask the questions to which retail businesses need the answers.

Brown card packaging

Materials and formats for sustainable packaging design

The choice of materials is key to packaging sustainability. Depending on the product, materials including plastic, metal, paper, glass and others all have strengths and weaknesses from both a functional and environmental perspective. The choice also creates consequences for production methods, transportation and retail distribution.

When faced with choices between formats, materials and processes, the Retail Institute is an independent source of advice to its members, helping them to weigh-up the pros and cons and developing a case to present to stakeholders. Through our membership outputs, we also keep our network informed on new issues and innovations, bringing scientific discovery to business practices.

The Retail Institute's expertise in packaging and their professional and creative approach to research has had a positive impact on our innovation process.

Sharon Crayton Ardagh Group

contact the retail institute

Join our community

Become a retail institute member

Join The Retail Institute and access research, insights and advice led by a team with over 20 years of experience in retail consultancy and innovation. As well as expert guidance, you’ll receive access to a range of publications, such as reports and quarterly bulletins, networking events and special interest forums.

Vegetables on a supermarket shelf
Woman smiling sat at a window