The information revolution continues to have an impact on the world at large and packaging is no exception.
The increasing uncertainty of the hyperconnected world — including the supply chain, consumer behavior and sustainability — is affecting how packagers approach their products, according to Bimal Lakhotia, director of research and development for the Coca-Cola Co. Lakhotia presented Sept. 22 during the annual Caps & Closures Conference, hosted by Plastics News, on the current trends for packagers.
"The future supply chain is expected to evolve and be broken into two: a front end and a back end," he said. "The front end could be considered like a leopard — it has to be agile and flexible as possible — and the back end is an elephant — difficult to move but needs to be strong."
When Lakhotia looks at why the changes are happening, he sees economy, efficiency in major cities, customized lifestyles by consumers, protectionism and global resilience.
Markets are more self-contained as digitalization reaches its peak. One such example is the evolution of 3D printing where a person can manufacture his or her own product and customize it.
Lakhotia pointed to a 2019 study by Mintel that showed a product's packaging only makes up 5 percent of consumer expectations. The highest factors influencing consumers to purchase are taste, price, quality of freshness and nutrition.
"It's an eye-opener, an introspection which we need to work upon," he said.
Emotions can evoke a particular state of mind in the consumer, and amid every brand, company and product are all trying to influence an ambience ripe for purchasing.
Lakhotia broke down experiences in packaging by aesthetics, usability and reflection.
"Once you're alerted, pick up the pack, buying the product then opening the closure and hearing the fizz — it gives an upliftment of emotions of the drinking experience," he said.
That moment, which Lakhotia called the "moment of truth," is what packagers should strive for when designing packaging.
One such innovation from Coca-Cola is a change in beverage neck finishes for Asian markets. A shorter neck reduces material but gives the consumer a different drinking experience.
"This one is close to my heart," he said. "In that part of the world, the beverage [is positioned] above the lips, you pour the drink into your mouth."
He explained the shorter neck was developed in a time where there was no consumer data, no standardized designs and that the consumers were alert to this change and welcomed it.
"We connected with human emotions. That's how the modern world is changing," he said.