Ethical, natural and Green are the buzz words for 2007

Next year looks set to mark the end of ‘bling’, ushering in an ever-increasing focus on ethical and all-natural products, and heralding the growing importance of technology in packaging, according to a series of trend reports released this week.

Reports, by Mintel and US product design consultancy Hirst Pacific, highlight that broader trends – in particular, growing environmental awareness – are likely to impact on product and packaging design in 2007.

According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database study, fair trade and sustainable ingredients will continue to expand over the next year, as will the focus on local and seasonal products.

The impact for designers will largely be in packaging. The Mintel report sees biodegradable packaging gaining in popularity and argues that refillable packaging has a good opportunity to make its mark as consumers look for ways to save resources.

Hirst Pacific president Kenneth Hirst agrees. He points out that even corporate behemoth Wal-Mart has launched a programme to encourage its 60 000 suppliers to produce Greener products and use organic materials, and says sustainable packaging is likely to become mainstream.

Hirst believes the use of materials such as bio-plastics, bagasse, TerraSkin, bamboo and recycled paper will be a key trend for 2007. ‘With so many brands capitalising on the Green factor, product packaging has become mundane,’ he says. ‘Companies need to look for new ways to differentiate, so expect to see the introduction of innovative packaging that emphasises Greenness, but also complements other brand values.’

Jones Knowles Ritchie creative director of innovation Silas Amos agrees that environmental issues are likely to move to the forefront next year.

‘In the past, clients saw it as an interesting topic, but tended to postpone its implementation. Now it is being translated into action,’ says Amos, who points to environmentally friendly London Tea Company packaging as an example.

On the back of this trend, ostentatious consumption is also becoming passé. According to Hirst, over-adorned products will take a back seat to more sophisticated and refined pieces. ‘Subtle design aesthetics are replacing showy designs covered with big logos and flashy embellishments,’ he says.

Mintel claims that 2007 will also mark the start of a wider use of technology in packaging. It points to US product Ripe Sense Anjou Pears, which is packaged in a container that indicates the fruit’s level of ripeness and allows consumers to keep the pack sealed until the pears reach peak condition. Radio frequency ID is also expected to have a more significant impact on packaging in 2007, it says.

But Amos disagrees. ‘Technological developments have been bandied about for a couple of years now, but they are not being considered, realistically. Clients are prosaic. They need to see a real cost or consumer benefit, and the costs are too high at the moment,’ he claims.



PRODUCT DESIGN – SOME PREDICTED TRENDS FOR 2007

Seeing Green – ethical, all-natural products are set to grow in importance

Urban to urbane – bling is taking a back seat to subtle, chic and classic designs

Keep it simple – companies will employ more clean lines and streamlined packaging, with greater focus on traditional ingredients and recipes

Hi-tech vision – consumers will start to see a wider use of technology to advance packaging and consumer-tracking procedures

Forever young – expect to see more advances in natural skincare products, coupled with innovative dispensing systems

Source: Hirst Pacific, New York and Mintel reports

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