Each year, PPC’s North American Paperboard Packaging Competition is a bellwether of major folding carton design trends to come. The judging of the 2016 competition took place in mid July, and although the winners will be revealed at our upcoming Fall Meeting in San Antonio, TX, here are a few of the overall trends that punctuated this year’s competition.
Playful, Brand Forward
In today’s cluttered retail environment, brand owners and marketers are—more than ever before—leaning on packaging to allure consumers. Because brands are trying to reach consumers at a personal level, many of the cartons entered into this year’s competition spoke directly to consumers with playful, colorful design and casual messaging. Although cartons are still fulfilling their duties in terms of product protection and efficient shipping, it seems clear that their marketing capabilities are being leveraged most in today’s retail space—the idea of the plain brown box is long gone. Cartons are becoming more brand forward and personally relevant to the consumer, and with that they’re making a big splash on the retail shelf.
Complex Finishing Combos
Just a few years ago, the use of high-end finishings may have merited special recognition in the competition. Fast-forward to 2016 and nearly every entry featured stunning coatings and exquisite tactile elements. The judges were thrilled at the industry’s quick advancement, although it did make for a more difficult time choosing winners!
New this year, however, was the use of multiple finishing effects on the same carton. For example, an entry might have had lush vat dyed board, soft touch coating, and embossing. These finishing combinations made for stunning, complex cartons that amped up the “wow” factor. With all the attention to aesthetics, the distinction between packaging and art was smaller than ever in this year’s competition.
One needn’t look further than the recent Pokémon Go phenomenon to see just how mobile technology has impacted our culture: gamers are taking to the streets where they can capture the iconic creatures, superimposed by their smartphones onto the real landscape.
This year’s competition entries rose to meet the demands of our mobile world. Several cartons creatively incorporated a paperboard viewer that harnessed Google’s Cardboard mobile app to give consumers a virtual reality experience. With the app running, consumers slide their phones into the viewer, and upon looking in, are transported into stunning virtual worlds. This allows for a level of interactivity between paperboard and the consumer never quite seen before, and also provides a great secondary use that keeps materials out of the waste stream.
Ever advancing digital printing technology is finally having an impact on the work submitted into the competition, as we are seeing more short runs and packaging for smaller organizations like microbreweries. As digital continues to expand the kinds of work that carton converters can profitably take on, we are very much excited to see how submissions will continue to change and grow.
The paperboard packaging industry is always moving forward, and this is because consumers are always moving forward! In this changing game, PPC’s North American Paperboard Packaging Competition is the constant that lets us gauge where we are and where we are going…and as far as we can see, that is a very bright place. For more information, or to see the winners after they are revealed this October, visit paperbox.org/cc.