Beyond the Box: Unwrapping 2024 Trends in the Custom Packaging Industry


The year 2024 unpacks innovative trends that will make your bubble wrap burst with excitement. However, these packaging trends also bring challenges that may make it difficult to stick to your business plans. Let’s unwrap them and see what’s in store for the custom packaging industry. This article will also share some actionable insights and ways for you to prepare for these changes to achieve brand success beyond the box.

2024 Custom Packaging Trends

This year, the main drivers of change in the packaging industry are sustainability, customer experience, and artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Brands and packaging companies would do well to delve deeper into these key packaging industry trends as they create new packaging designs for their customer base.

The Demand for Sustainable Packaging Materials Continues to Increase

In the past few decades, environmental concerns have spurred the demand for brand owners to minimize their plastic waste. This increasing demand from consumers compels brands to implement sustainable solutions. The drive for sustainability was trending in 2023, and 2024 will be no different. 

Governments and NGOs are implementing sustainability agendas as both brands and consumers alike actively search for more eco-friendly solutions. These include the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, California’s Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Similarly, brands are now embracing sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging to reduce their carbon footprint, capture the increasing number of eco-conscious consumers, and foster a positive brand image that aligns with global efforts against climate change. 

  1. According to the CPG Sustainability Report, 92% of shoppers say sustainability is important when choosing a brand to patronize. 
  2. Compared to traditional goods, the growth of sustainable products is 2.7 times faster due to higher consumer demand.
  3. Environmental impact is very important to 43% of consumers when evaluating packaging features during their purchasing decisions.  
  4. Sustainable packaging ranks second as the most important element of sustainability that consumers consider when purchasing products.
  5. Around 41% of consumers think that the accumulation of waste, including packaging and plastic, is the most concerning environmental problem in their country. This heightens the demand for more eco-friendly packaging solutions.

So, what can you do to amplify your sustainability initiatives? Here are some ideas to start off with:

Go minimalist. 

Minimalist designs and clean lines are trending. But more than the packaging designs, minimizing the amount of materials used is also gaining popularity. Remove secondary packaging if possible and use fewer materials if you can. Consumers correlate fewer materials with less waste. Keep brand perception as a premium product by enhancing the design of your primary packaging instead.

Offer reusable options for plastic packaging.

Say goodbye to single-use plastics. Custom tote bags made of fabric and sturdy gift boxes made from corrugated boards are great options. But when the use of plastic is truly unavoidable, consider recyclable containers that can be repurposed. Even high-end brands like Estee Lauder and Gucci are wrapping their luxury goods in recyclable packages. 

Make your sustainability efforts visible.

Logo and packaging designs are crucial for brand recognition. Elevate your brand image further by making it clear where you stand on environmental concerns. Consider incorporating these eco properties in your products and visually highlight them in your packaging and on your product stand on retail shelves:

  • Biodegradable
  • Compostable
  • Certified Wood
  • Plastic-Free
  • Multi-Use
  • Recycled

Start the shift toward circularity.

Support a circular economy. Consider the full life cycle of your products and their packaging. This requires more than reducing waste during manufacturing. Incorporating recyclable materials and innovative ideas for packaging disposal helps minimize the environmental impact of your product packaging. 

Customer Experiences Take the Spotlight

In 2023, double-sided packaging designs were in vogue, as they provided a unique unboxing experience that was capable of telling customers a brand’s story. Consumer behaviors are continuously shifting toward alternative packaging materials and innovative product presentation.

To adapt to this trend, brands are turning packaging into an even more immersive experience where every layer shares a message. From textured tissue paper that feels like a warm hug to glossy printed tape that highlights premium quality, this year continues to focus on enhancing customer engagement by creating a specialized experience in every unboxing.

Shop Popular Products

A recent study reveals the impact of highly creative packaging. However, businesses need to balance the creativity of their packaging with meaningful designs that resonate with customers.

  1. Around 42% of marketers hire creators to produce unboxing or product reveal content. Exclusive content for brands enables them to connect better with their market as it gives a glimpse of what they could experience when they receive the product.
  2. Approximately 13% of consumers researching products look at unboxing videos of influencers. That’s twice as much as those whose purchases are influenced by watching product videos and images.
  3. Personalized packaging is among the most desired experiences customers are looking for from brands. About 26% of customers would be delighted to receive a thank you card or something bespoke when they unwrap their packages.

To make memorable unboxing experiences for your customers, consider the following:

Unify branding across all channels and products.

Make sure your brand is visually clear and identifiable on your website, social channels, products, and, of course, their packaging. You’d want every element of your packaging to be a part of your brand narrative.

Make unboxing a multi-sensory experience. 

Develop a packaging design that creates a strong connection between customers and your brands. Use vivid colors to capture attention, but be careful not to go overboard. Add texture, scent, and sound that make unboxing more thrilling. 

Be authentic.

Whether it’s about product quality or sustainability claims, deliver what you promise and make this clear with your packaging design.

Technology Fuels Innovation and Spurs Excitement 

Technology Fuels Innovation and Spurs Excitement

In 2024, we see artificial intelligence making an impact on virtually all aspects of the packaging process, from design to manufacturing and printing. 

  1. In 2023, the digital label printing and 3D-printed packaging markets were valued at $11.06 billion and $1.220 million, respectively. Both markets are projected to increase to approximately $18.54 billion and $2.560 million by 2033.
  2. Only 16% of companies are implementing a data-driven approach to smart packaging. These pioneering brands show a wider margin across several value indicators compared to other businesses. They outperform others in terms of product recall, customer acquisition, and counterfeit protection, among many others.

Ready to embrace innovation in your packaging process? Ride the tech wave to differentiate your brand.

  • Use Generative AI wisely. ChatGPT, Bard, Firefly, and other generative AI and modeling tools can enhance the design process. Use them to generate design ideas and create content, but make sure to tweak their output to tailor your packaging to your unique needs.
  • Roll out digital design and printing solutions. Digital printing is considered a more cost-effective and less labor-intensive alternative to traditional printing methods. It’s rising in demand, and brands prefer it for better customization, tamper-proofing, and counterfeit protection.
  • Offer more than just packaging. Incorporate QR codes, augmented reality (AR) elements, and other interactive features that heighten engagement. Everyone now uses digital devices that you can leverage to create immersive experiences.
  • Explore connected packaging. Make your products stand out on and off the shelves. Active and intelligent packaging that integrates Internet of Things (IoT) technology helps meet consumer expectations of product transparency and tailored experiences.

Challenges Packaging Companies Need to Prepare for this Year

Around 80% of companies that started their sustainability transformation less than a year ago still aren’t on track with their sustainability programs, as disruptions in the supply chain continue to beset the industry. Manufacturers still struggle to source raw materials, and packaging retailers or distributors require longer lead times to deliver products. Labor shortages, skyrocketing prices, more stringent regulations, and border controls worsen the problem.

The heightened focus on extended producer responsibility is also impacting packaging industry trends. Aside from using eco-safe food packaging, flexible packaging, and other alternatives, companies must ensure that there is accountability in the full life cycle of the packaging they use.

However, sustainability in the custom packaging industry still opens opportunities for businesses. With about 50% of consumers willing to pay more for sustainable packaging, it’s still cost-efficient in the long term to run sustainability initiatives.

Create Lasting Impressions Through Custom Packaging

Create Lasting Impressions Through Custom Packaging

As we unwrap what 2024 holds, it’s clear that sustainability, customer experiences, and technology will drive the custom packaging world into the future. To leverage the growth potential from the latest packaging design trends, keep these in mind:

  • Green is “in” and will likely stay that way for the long haul. Ditch the plastic packaging and look for sustainable packaging solutions. Sustainable materials like plant-based inks, compostable paper, and reusable containers are the top choices for packaging that beautifies the planet and your brand.
  • Make every unboxing a spectacular customer experience. Let your packaging take center stage and tell your brand’s unique story. Include immersive and interactive design elements that engage consumers and build lasting brand relationships.  
  • Tech it up a notch. Turn to modern technology for packaging ideas that leave a lasting impression. AI-aided design, digital printing, and QR codes add a modern twist to your packaging. Give your new packaging a tech-savvy glow-up that attracts and engages consumers.

Adapting to these consumer trends is a strategic imperative. It not only drives sales for your brand but also creates a positive impact on your consumers and the environment. So, go beyond the box with these packaging innovations!

Refine Packaging is the top choice for 1000s of small businesses, Inc 5000, and Fortune 500 companies alike when it comes to custom packaging boxes. With super fast production times, affordable pricing, and a sky’s the limit attitude, we’ll help you turn your custom packaging into a competitive differentiator. Contact us today and a dedicated packaging specialist will guide you through every step of the custom packaging process without breaking a sweat.

Ready to think outside the box? Let's get started!

Get in touch with a custom packaging specialist now for a free consultation and instant price quote.

blue colored shape
blue colored shape
blue colored wave shape