Columbus, OH — One year’s innovative and groundbreaking idea becomes the next year’s benchmark standard. As the best ones become more accessible and affordable, new trends develop in their place. It’s the natural lifecycle of ideation and innovation. And it’s this very ecosystem that big players are discussing an important growing trend: environmentally friendly packaging and product design. There have been countless conversations over the years about the responsibility of businesses to become eco-friendly, and whether or not consumers even cared. A lot of times this conversation turned into a discussion about sales, and the preferences of buyers. No, no… the cheaper option is preferred. Or the prettiest. Maybe, it was the one that felt “premium.”

It’s hard to say what the actual preference was—if there was in fact just one—when these discussions took place, but the idea of being “green” and “eco-friendly” was not only novel, it was done as a symbol of status, or it was a sham.  While back-and-forths have continued arguing the relationship between business and the environment, it’s become clear: people do care what goes in to the products they use and consume, and they care about the packaging in which that product is delivered.

Excess waste, redundant uses of plastic, and single-use plastic items have all come under fire,leading to unwanted headlines and public scrutiny. People aren’t shy in sharing their thoughts on what they’ve purchased, and as we know, that’s especially true if they have a negative experience. On the flip side, eco-friendly practices will create buzz and press for all the right reasons. In 2018 Adidas released a line of shoes made using recycled plastics from the ocean and brought awareness to the project they’ve partnered with called Parley for the Oceans. Between this partnership, another initiative they launched to only use recycled plastic by 2024, and the fact that over a million eco-friendly shoes of theirs have been sold, the German brand is now synonymous with cleaning up our planet’s water. This kind of progress shows that consumers and public perception reward when brands for stopping all the talk about acting and just doing it instead.

While repurposing and recycling plastic in the creation of new products is admirable and a great start, it doesn’t address the future of production or answer the question: then what? That’s where the world of product and package design come into play. While some brands like Ben & Jerrys and Patagonia have been in the game for many years, newcomers are coming from all corners of the market to try to do their part. Corona unveiled a packaging solution that would eliminate plastic six-pack rings, opting for a six-pack made for by-product waste and other compostable materials. They’re testing the rings out in British and Mexican markets starting next year. While Corona rethinks the six-pack ring, Carlsberg is challenging what is required to keep their six-packs together: after three years of R&D that included around 4,000 tests, they have developed a glue to keep their cans combined. Both cheers-worthy moves are being celebrated by brewers big and small. Beauty brands are also dipping their toes in the water: L’Oreal collaborated with Ecologic to launch Seed Phytonutrients, a line of 16 products that all use recycled materials and shower-friendly paper that is both recyclable and compostable.

Why This Matters—

Marketers and advertisers are also taking notice. Instead of handing out branded sunglasses at a Lyft event, they shared some Avocados sporting their logo. Branded Fruit has since emblazoned the logos of AT&T, IBM, and WordPress onto all kinds of produce for various events. Probably not the disruption a $24-billion industry was expecting, but a seemingly welcome one for conference-goers everywhere. When BMW promoted the release of their eco-friendly i3, they made sure the catalog fit the theme.

Eco-friendly packaging and products are becoming more commonplace, and the expectations of consumers are driving this change. The shift isn’t limited to any particular industry. There is evidence of eco-friendly thinking everywhere, from cars to pharmaceuticals. Being eco-friendly is no longer just for green status. From production to promotion, it’s leading to new thinking in every facet of product development.

The 2019 Health Trend Ten from Syneos HealthTM explores the many ways in which healthcare is learning from the broader world of retail, and more. Read it here.

About the Author:

Colin is an Associate Director of Innovation helping the team show the way in a changing marketplace. A graphic designer by trade, he comes from a brand marketing background. Colin hopes to continue bringing life to brand’s stories through innovative and attractive new ideas.