18 February 2021


It always happens this time of year that trend predictions seem to come fast and furious. In truth, trends are constantly emerging and fading, and sometimes – as in the case of Covid-19 – we see them accelerate and take on fresh prominence and relevance.

Currently however, a discussion of trends does seem particularly timely. Retailers and producers, and even a fair few packaging designers, are working hard to pin down the trends that are likely to dominate the coming year.

They will be asking; Which trends are likely to harness the groundswell of new product innovation and refocused messaging of 2020? Which are likely to help a retailer to lock in and build on the market share they earned as a result of shifting consumer loyalties?

In 2021, here are just a few of the trends likely to deliver those sought-after outcomes for CPG players…



One of the positive aspects of 2020’s locked down lifestyles and working from home regimes was that it gave people a fresh perspective on how our normal patterns of commuting and travel impact our natural environment.

Climate change and the role of every individual in living more sustainably to make a positive difference has resurfaced as a key political priority and media theme – with many hoping to recover lost ground after the plastics binges (the countless masks, cleaning wipes and plastic wrappers) seen during the pandemic.

A focus on sustainability can be seen across both national brands and retailers’ own branded ranges with renewed energy into removal of avoidable plastics from packaging, such as in greeting cards and fresh fruit and veg.

We can expect to see continued re-thinking of conventional substrates and focus on recycled materials and recyclability – removing glitter and foils from products which is really taking hold in the UK – and simple changes to packaging elements easing post-consumer recycling.

We will also see sustainability increasingly used as a differentiator for marketing purposes – such as key callouts about waste reduction and recyclability on pack and for sustainable packaging to take centre stage in ad campaigns as sustainable packaging becomes a central element of the product concept and brand development strategy.



Alongside the influence of sustainability on the use of recycled and recyclable materials, we can expect the continuing growth in natural, healthy and plant-based foods to be reflected in the materials used.

When it comes to luxury packaging for example, the go-to differentiators are changing. Foils, varnishes and glitter are out. Interesting natural packaging formats, and features such as ribbons, string, swing tags, are in.

Here, the wholesomeness of the product will be reflected in the natural tones and textures of the packaging materials. While we can also expect to see the use of transparent materials to showcase the product and evidence its health benefits, recyclable and reusable packaging will remain a vehicle for delivering added benefit to the product – jars that can be used for home storing & preserving, for example.

With the financial and social impacts of the pandemic driving consumer appetites for a touch of “attainable” luxury, food and beverage packaging can provide a quick hit of indulgence and enable retailers to build differentiation as part of their tiering strategies.


Bold Patterns

Bold patterns will be one of the ways that product, category and brand managers use to bring the fun back into food, shopping and (hopefully) sharing in 2021. Appealing to consumers’ sense of optimism while creating impact on shelf, geometric patterns will be featured in eye-popping colours and apparently random designs.

We can also expect to see plenty of colour-blocking, with a palette that takes inspiration from the most recent raft of tech and automotive launches, and shapes that take their cues from nature, with abstract leaf, mountain and river contours.


Earthy Palettes

The back to nature theme remains dominant, but here we specifically consider colour choice. Paint manufacturers Dulux released its colour of the year, Brave Ground (to the typical snarky reception of COTY critics), and this can best be described as an easy-to-complement pastel walnut.

As biophilia becomes an increasingly important design concept for homes and workplaces, the emphasis on tones inspired by nature will also be visible in our store cupboards and refrigerators. Greens, browns and greys are all on-trend hues that bring the outdoors to the instore and home environment and have strong associations with natural ingredients and wholesome recipes.


Modern Serifs

Vintage and nostalgia will bring comfort and a sense of belonging to packaging design in 2021 and modern serifs will play a central role in delivering packs that reference these trends without becoming twee reproductions of antiquated design.

Typography will take inspiration from classic labels and packaging design, while updating it with modern serifs that bring clarity and complement both bold patterns and nature-inspired hues. Hand-drawn serifs will enable brands and retailers to bring an authentically original look to their packs that works with the contours of the packaging’s shape and visual elements.


Tactile print effects

When it comes to print effects, 2021 will be all about depth and texture, creating a tactile connection with the product. 2020’s social distancing regimes have resulting in a longing to touch and experience life with all senses so we can expect raised print effects, interesting substrates and lustrous natural finishes to create packs that invite consumers to experience the products with both their eyes and their fingertips. Meanwhile, white-out designs within a solid colour and repeating patterns will also create a sense of depth that stimulates the senses.

We need to be mindful of all trends affecting physical packaging, as these will inevitably impact the development of digital renders for e-commerce. Equator produced more digital renders in 2020 than ever before, and with e-commerce on an unstoppable growth trajectory, what may be most fascinating to observe is how this shift will impact the packaging design journey from the concepts stage onward. In the context of a digitally driven society, it will be interesting to see how the above trends play out.

If you would like to discuss any one of these trends in greater detail, please reach out.  Alternatively, find out more about Equator Design by visiting equator-design.com.

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