Packaging industry facing disruptions amid COVID-19

COVID-19 and its impact on the packaging industry has forced consumers in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region to be more mindful of their safety and well-being. They are likely to change their views about packaging in response to the spread of COVID-19 to protect themselves getting infected by the virus.

Shagun Sachdeva, consumer insights analyst at GlobalData, a data and analytics company, highlighted the key trends and developing insights impacting the packaging industry in the APAC amid COVID-19.

Health and protection over sustainability
Just before the COVID-19 outbreak, sustainable packaging was one of the key challenges on every fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company’s agenda. However, consumers’ sentiment is now significantly shifting to ‘health and protection first’, and this will potentially change consumers’ views on packaging to be more hygiene-focused rather than sustainability.

Packaging in foodservice
As the virus can spread from touch, consumers have been reconsidering their preference for recycled and sustainable packaging; many foodservice chains have already stopped using personal and reusable packaging. Given the current situation, building up capabilities in this area, right from packaging know-how to online ordering and delivery (or using third parties), will  provide the building blocks for the  future growth. Even after the pandemic, consumers will continue to look for the positive food delivery experience they encountered while stuck at home. Hence, operators should look to focus on building better facilities in this area.

Trust and Safety
Issues around eco-friendliness and recycling are coming to the fore. After the initial effects of the pandemic, packaging companies are urging governments to ensure that rubbish collections and recycling are maintained. Due to COVID-19, traditional packaging formats and single-use plastics are receiving a short-term revivified status to ensure the safe and sanitary distribution of vital products.

GlobalData’s COVID-19 week-4 consumer survey shows that almost 43 per cent of Australians agree that they are concerned about the safety of the packaging of the products they purchase. Also, consumers are seeking long- term solutions that also meet the sustainability agenda.

Technology-enabled packaging
The product packaging is crucial for various reasons; customer knowledge is one of its most important factors. With the growing number of COVID-19 positive cases, smart packaging continues to gain traction, as it gives greater transparency. Technology can now be incorporated directly into the product to provide better protection and knowledge to the user. Block-chain technology, QR codes and smart labels are implemented into the packaging sector and can be scanned by smartphone for further product details.

Such systems may also be used not only to ensure product protection and quality, but also to minimise waste and increase productivity in the supply chain. Manufacturers must engage in technologically enabled packaging to gain consumer loyalty.

Sterile and antiviral packaging
GlobalData’s COVID-19 week 3 consumer survey reveals that 70% Indians and 63% Chinese are influenced by how the product impacts their health and well-being. Anxiety to avoid germs and other contaminants leads to increased demand for better packaging. Immediate consequences would be the fear of consumers about the ability of the virus to live on the packaging surface and this would increase the market for sterile and antiviral packaging.

Research is underway into the antibacterial and antiviral polymers and biopolymers packaging – materials that are enhanced with effective, active drug elements and display low toxicity. Demand for these materials in everyday consumer products may rise dramatically after COVID-19.