You can’t judge a book by its cover. Or can you?
When it comes to plastic packaging, you definitely do if you’re a Millennial! Born from the early 1980s to the late 1990s, Millennials are more thoughtful than previous generations when it comes to choosing products that say something about who they are, which means packaging needs to say something about who they are, too.
Add to that the fact that Millennials are now America’s largest living generation and it should come as no surprise that their preferences are driving the design of product packaging.
The question is, what kind of packaging do Millennials prefer?
More than any other generation before them, Millennials are concerned with their impact on the environment. That poses a unique challenge to the manufacture of packaging because plastic still rules the world.
Plastic is still more affordable, eye-catching, and it’s easier to manufacture compared to metal, paper, and even glass. Unfortunately, plastic isn’t really known for being the most environmentally-friendly option. As a matter of fact, according to a recent poll, nearly 65 percent of people believe that Millennials think plastic isn’t very environmentally-friendly at all. It isn’t hard to see why this is such a pervasive belief, when you consider the fact that other countries around the world are working on banning plastic bags, and floating clouds of plastic in our oceans make the nightly news.
In order to appeal to Millennials, many manufacturers are focusing on packaging that can be recycled. If a company goes the extra mile to ensure that their packaging is recyclable, they’ll attract attention from Millennials for the right reasons. The key is to communicate these concerns about the environment to customers who will then reward that company by purchasing their products.
However, Millennials are wise to the fact that many companies stretch their stories, beliefs, and research to attract customers. That’s where industry collaboration and endorsements from third parties come in.
Industry collaboration is a great way to show customers that you truly care about packaging. One example is How2Recycle, a third-party company that can add recycling information to any plastic container. This shows Millennial shoppers that a business isn’t just making claims that are unfounded, ultimately making a business seem more honest.
These labels have the added benefit of describing exactly how the packaging can be recycled, ensuring that more of these containers will find their way to the recycling bin.
Environmentally-friendly packaging is important to Millennials, but so is convenience. This generation is the generation on the go, which requires special packaging that fits their needs.
In decades past, families may have sat down for breakfast in the morning, so items packaged in bulk were no problem. Today, Millennials move more quickly. They’re much more likely to grab a bottle of tea and a granola bar on their way out the door instead of sitting down to a bowl full of cereal.
This is one of the reasons why recyclable packaging is so important. Millennials use more packaging than other generations simply because so much is packaged for single servings. However, this packaging technique is important if you want to appeal to a generation that spends less time at home than their parents and grandparents did.
If items aren’t packaged in single serving containers, plastic packaging manufacturers need to make it easy to save what’s left for later. For example, plastic bottles with resealable lids are perfect for Millennials because they can be stowed away. You wouldn’t want to try that with an aluminum can!
There was once a time when packaging wasn’t really all that important. The consumer was more focused on what was inside the packaging than the packaging itself. That definitely isn’t the case when it comes to Millennials today.
As mentioned earlier, Millennials believe that the products they choose say something about who they are. Some would even go so far as to say the brands they choose say something about their values. That means that packaging has to convey meaning beyond what’s simply inside the bottle.
This makes sense when you consider that members of this generation aren’t consuming food or using items in their home. They’re drinking beverages in subways and snacking in the office where people can see what it is they’re consuming. The package becomes more like a pair of shoes or a hat than a simple container.
Plastic is a great medium for design because it can be customized in any way you can imagine. From funky shaped bottles to special holiday designs and even customization by the consumer, Millennials, more than any other generation, are paying attention to what plastic packaging looks like.
Plastic packaging isn’t going anywhere soon
Because plastic packaging is so easy to design, modify, and recycle, it definitely isn’t going anywhere soon. As consumer needs change, you can expect plastic packaging to change too. After all, who knows what Generation Z is going to look for in their packaging!