The Ultimage Guide to Food and Beverage Packaging

It’s 2020, and truly anything is possible when it comes to packaging. Food & beverage packaging is on the forefront of innovation. Unlike other industries, their B2B and B2C packaging is of equal importance – and for very different reasons. For example, B2B packaging focuses on food safety and avoiding spoilage, while B2C packaging relies heavily on aesthetics and branding. Of course, there are overlaps. Branding at the B2B level can be just as important, and food safety at the B2C level… you see where this is going.  

From the evolving world of e-commerce to augmented reality and everything in between, this Ultimate Guide serves to keep you updated on food & beverage packaging trends and staples for 2020 and beyond.  


e-commerce and food packaging


E-commerce has shifted the way companies package their products both inside and outside the box. In this blog from 2019, we discuss how social media and e-commerce have created a need for branded, fun and sustainable packaging, based on the use and the demographic.

In the food industry, a change in consumer food demands has led to new developments in food packaging. Additionally,  new challenges that come from e-commerce are vast and widely growing. When buying online, the consumer expects to receive what they ordered on the website. It seems like a simple concept, right? But a company may update its product design, but one of their online retailers is still shipping the product out in the outdated packaging. When the consumer receives something different than what they ordered, their trust in the product, brand, and retailer is weakened.  

The increased use of 3rd party retailers exacerbates this issue, when supply chains aren’t directly syncing with the manufacturer.  

Products that are shipped to stores must be packaged differently than products that are shipped directly to consumers. B2B food and beverage sales are often packaged in bulk with less emphasis on aesthetics, and more emphasis on safe and efficient transit, handling, storage and shelving. We are seeing household names like Kellogg with new business models to sell directly to the consumer, which might require a packaging rebrand. 

Branded packaging is important for this reason, and easy to achieve. Many companies choose to brand their boxes and poly bags with their logo, while others can save money on branding the tape that seals the packaging (think: Amazon). Social media has set new branding standards as consumers are now capturing the “unboxing” process in photos and videos. Retailers are now investing more money on brand awareness for the inner-carton packaging. Items like padding and cushioning must be both pleasing to the eye and effective in protecting product. If a package looks nice, it says a lot about the brand and, alternatively, the opposite is also true.

Both good and bad packaging will get reviewed accordingly. Which side will your brand be on?


Consumer Food Packaging

Packaging for Consumer Consumption 

With so many options available to consumers online, packaging becomes a challenge. A grocer retailer is tasked with curating packaging for an infinite combination of products, sizes, temperatures, weights, etc., and must make sure they can all ship together without compromising the integrity of each product. Whew! Just thinking about it is mentally exhausting.   

The good news is that there are so many ways food distributors can make packaging work in their favor. 

By utilizing boxes with partitions, packers can separate heavy or bulky products from fragile, lightweight ones so there is no crushing. Insulated pouches can hold perishable goods and keep condensation at bay to keep boxes from damage. The use of paper void fill and cushioning systems can help separate products without having to invest in custom boxes and, as a plus, is a sustainable, recyclable option.  

Sustainability plays a significant role in food packaging. E-commerce along with meal-kit delivery creates the need for additional packaging – and more waste. This concerns the modern-day consumer. According to CNBC via Grocery Dive, most millennials are willing to pay 66% more for sustainable products.  

Brands like Nestle and Coca-Cola are taking initiatives to create more sustainable consumer and bulk packaging. Coca-Cola’s goal, for example, is to collect and recycle “the equivalent of 100% of the packaging it sells globally by 2030.” (Grocery Dive) 

Meal-kit delivery service Green Chef will reduce its packaging by 20% by removing four pounds of ice from each delivery. However, they are aware that sustainability must not compromise the safety and freshness of the food. Green Chef’s head of sustainability, Jeff Yorzyk, states, “We have a real challenge in the food industry in general; packaging has a real role in food quality and safety, and we can never forget that.” (

Online retailers must maintain product integrity, so investing in the proper packaging is crucial.


Cold chain technology and Food Safety

Cold Chain & Food Safety

Keeping food and drinks at the right temperature during shipping and storage depends a lot on packaging. Cold Chain technology is defined as uninterrupted flow of a temperature-controlled shipment from manufacturing through delivery to end-user.” (Cold Chain Technology, 2019, This blog on Cold Chain thoroughly examines its importance for food safety and quality.  

Food safety is the number one goal of every food manufacturer and retailer. Spoiled food can be deadly, at worst, and gross, at best. And it will always damage a brand’s reputation. Attention to Cold Chain is essential to the health of the consumer and the health of brand image. 

Cold Chain is a huge part of their success. It involves the entire supply chain, so the packaging must be strong enough and cold enough to withstand a lot of ‘shipping and handling,’ so to speak.  

Products like high-end coolers, thermal blankets and liners, molded foams, and ice packs create insulated shipping containers, allowing perishable foodstuffs to travel to retailers and consumers safely. Heavyduty corrugated boxes and high-mil waterproof poly bags can help keep these weighty materials from breaking down in transit. Advanced technology like temperature-sensitive indicators tell handlers if the packaging is in a safe temperature zone for freshness.  

There is little room for error in cold chain technology packaging. The safety of millions of people depends on it.


Augmented reality packaging

Augmented Reality for Food Packaging 

According to, “2020 will see packaging becoming more of an interactive experience for consumers, particularly with augmented reality (AR) technology set to grow.” So, what exactly is Augmented Reality? It is the use of technology (like smart phones) to enhance or add information to our world ( has a lot of benefits for food packaging, too, like increased brand loyalty and attraction of new customers (  

It sounds complicated, but AR can be simple for businesses to implement. All it takes is an additional code printed on package, and the consumer accesses it with their smart phones.

With AR, a company can share more about a product than they can fit on the actual packaging. Traditional packaging is limited to a finite amount of space. A smart phone code allows the consumer to access more information about a product and interact with it, increasing brand awareness and engagement.  

This is also a win for sustainability and brand loyalty.

Businesses can decrease the amount of packaging needed for a product: By removing the amount of content necessary from the actual packaging and transferring data to AR, they are helping decrease packaging waste. This, in turn, appeals to the millennial consumer who is more concerned with the environment than generations before them.  

In the U.K. in 2019, Burger King called for a “Meltdown” of all their plastic toys used for kids’ meals.  This has pushed them to get more creative with their packaging and the use of AR with a smartphone app. They have removed a wasteful manufacturing process, added a sense of goodwill to their brand, and continue to make their younger consumers happy. As Caspar Thykier says in his 2019 article in Packaging Digest, “Literally everyone wins here.” 

This example from Nespresso shows one of the capabilities of AR packaging for the food and beverage industry.  

AR packaging is a great way to continue updating brand content without having to always update the packaging. The packaging can remain the same, as the interactive (app, website, etc.) content evolves with the brand. Businesses can eliminate waste and overspend on packaging and put that money back into other marketing – or any other business sector – efforts.  

Use AR branding on outside-the-box packaging like corrugated boxes, poly bags, printed tape, and on consumer packaging like wine bottle labels, milk cartons, and cereal boxes. It’s a clear win for attracting new business, engaging customers and building brand loyalty. 

Start advancing your food & beverage packaging today.

Whether you’re looking for new branding ideas, or are experiencing challenges with food and beverage packaging, we’re here to help. We’ve got 28 years of packaging experience at your disposal. Contact us today to start a conversation about enhancing your packaging.