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Has COVID-19 Changed Packaging Priorities for Consumers?

Posted by Carla Colwell
29th June, 2020

The outbreak of COVID-19 has moved the goalposts for almost every industry on the planet and the packaging world is no exception. The impact on production and packaging made swift, unprecedented changes necessary at the start of the pandemic as we saw soaring demand, particularly in the food and pharma packaging sectors. Now, as countries begin to prepare tentatively for a lowering of restrictions, many industry professionals are wondering whether some of these changes may be here to stay.

With millions of people confined to their homes, consumer behaviour changed overnight out of necessity, and supply chains have had to learn to adapt – and fast. Some manufacturers responded with a change in their logistics model to enable a direct-to-consumer approach over the typical commercial or industrial supply. This, coupled with increased consumer concern over hygiene standards, has led to an inevitable and significant shift in attitudes to packaging as a result.

Has packaging sustainability taken a back seat?

Sustainability has been a hot topic across the packaging industry for some time. Some industry professionals have expressed concern in a shift of priorities away from sustainability during the pandemic, which has seen a necessary rise in emergency supply and packaging-heavy online sales growth. However, others believe that it is too soon to tell whether it will last without enough data for a comprehensive analysis. 

One thing is clear, however. The current global confinement has recently led to a visible rise in demand for a wider range of direct-to-consumer products. But the more-aware consumer wants to know more about the provenance of their purchases now the threat of COVID-19 has taken seed. This could lead to an increase in the need for even greater transparency across the supply chain as more consumers ask:

  • What is in the product?
  • Where is it sourced?
  • How was it made and under what conditions?
  • How much human intervention has there been?
  • Are packaging processes hygienic? 
  • When was it made?
  • How has it been packaged?
  • Where has it been packaged?
  • How long has it been stored?
  • What is the packaging made from?
  • Is it recyclable?
  • And more.

A current lack of definition surrounding predicted future demand is a concern for some industry experts that this may hold back the supply chain in committing to further sustainability investment for the longer term. Because there is no precedent, supply chain and sustainability professionals at all levels may first face uncertainty until further data is available. Then they will face fresh challenges making any changes necessary to address and control operations and measure sustainability impact over the distance. 

Future-proofing packaging processes

Some manufacturers and packaging operations are safeguarding both their businesses and the workforce and not waiting for the data trends. With reliable analysis only expected once supply chains ‘normalise’, many are learning from the crisis and preparing to future-proof their operations. Whether consumer priorities change for good remains to be seen. But by supporting necessary yet challenging changes to working practices and increasing efficiency now, business models can remain flexible over the short-term and scalable for the future. 

The recent surge in consumer demand has seen dramatic changes in online shopping trends. One of the biggest being range of products. Now, variety in a wider range of categories is growing to meet demand and the impact of this could be far-reaching once the consumer settles into this expectation. Therefore, manufacturers in certain high-demand sectors, such as food, hygiene and domestic cleaning products, could face big challenges. If social distancing and hygiene measures continue, handing multi-product packaging, storage and distribution could become much more difficult.

How automation can help? 

Automated packaging lines reduce human contact and support social distancing measures requiring one or two operatives at a time to operate and monitor quality control. Minimising human contact can dramatically reduce the risk of the spread of all types of infection and safeguard both the workforce and the consumer. 

There are other, longer-term benefits of automating the packaging line beyond COVID-19:

  • Increased output
  • Greater consistency
  • Reduced human intervention
  • Higher hygiene standards
  • Lower energy consumption
  • Facilitates 24-hour shift operation

Investing in sustainable packaging solutions now can also help to reduce your carbon footprint, energy consumption and reliance on manual resources. This is important in both the short and the long-term to support immediate demand surge and vital social distancing and the long-term to increase consumer confidence.

How Jacob White is supporting packaging lines during the crisis and beyond?

Jacob White has continued to support our global clients throughout the crisis. So far, we’ve continued the production of our packaging machines while protecting our teams on the ground and supporting social distancing. The customer support team has been working remotely, offering the same seamless support as we have for more than 100 years. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are offering an accelerated service to keep your operations meeting still-rising demand for diversity and faster turnaround. Jacob White packaging machines deliver:

  • Variable speed controls
  • Semi-automated or full automation
  • Tailored to your exact needs
  • Size variation with no parts changeover required
  • Increased output and productivity
  • Minimum training required

Many manufacturing and packaging businesses are continuing to face unprecedented challenges. These may continue for some time yet as we wait to see if the changes in consumer behaviour creates a new normal. Talk to us about your concerns, ideas and plans and let us help you future-proof your packaging line.

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