Replacing social media. Coors invests in cannabis. Avocado tech.
You’re the total package.
Packaging. It’s ubiquitous but often overlooked, which makes it a category ripe for disruption.
While diving into packaging technology for CB Insights clients this week, four major themes emerged:
#1: How can packaging support new shopping methods?
In a world of e-commerce, brands no longer need packaging to catch shoppers’ eyes.
Instead, online platforms lets brands use photos, videos, user-generated content, and more to promote their goods. (We dove into this more deeply here). Startups like Daily Harvest are taking advantage.
In some ways, packaging is less important for attracting new buyers. But at the same time, shoppers still want a good packaging experience with products ordered online — for themselves and for any photos they might post on social media. They want any online purchases of fresh food to arrive unspoiled and safe, but they also want less waste from boxes, wrappers, or styrofoam.
Brands will have to think about how to take advantage of these new opportunities and navigate these new constraints.
Amazon, for example, operates a “customer packaging experience” team and has promoted easy-to-open, recyclable packaging since 2008. For companies wary of relying too heavily on Amazon, startups like Lumi ($9M raised) offer customizable, lightweight packaging for D2C brands.
But it’s not just misguided, YouTube-fame-hungry teens that are driving CPG brands to seek out safer packaging methods.
It’s also growth in online grocery shopping, which necessitates a way to tell shoppers whether their food has spoiled in transit. It’s the rise of legalized marijuana, which is driving startups to design new, childproof bottles and boxes. It’s the rapid expansion of prescription medications, which parents and caretakers need to monitor.
Going forward, brands can use features like IoT tags and spoilage sensors to help shoppers better understand what’s in their packages, how long it’s been there, who else has opened them, and more.
#3: Is packaging the new Facebook?
Packages don’t have to be passive. They can act as Trojan Horses, gaining access to shoppers’ homes and feeding data back to brands.
Social media can show companies who’s talking about their products. But smart packages can let companies understand who’s actually using their products — when, how frequently, etc.
And it’s not necessarily a one-way street; smart packages can also benefit shoppers by reminding them to take their daily medication, automatically ordering refills, alerting people about spoilage, and more.
Startup Water.IO, for example, provides Bayer and others with IoT caps that promise data collection for brands and automatic replenishment for shoppers.
#4: Is the future of packaging no packaging at all?
Sustainability has become a major buzzword in the packaging space.
Dozens of startups and institutions aim to make packaging more sustainable through strategies ranging from reusable cardboard to crabshells.
And, some of the most interesting players in the space are re-imagining packaging altogether, using biotechnology to reduce the need for plastic and wax.
Apeel, which just raised $70M yesterday (see Notable Deals below) has patented an invisible, tasteless, plant-based coating for fruits and vegetables that can replace wax and extend the food’s shelf life by 100%.
By staving off spoilage, Apeel hopes to help agricultural producers (who can ship their produce farther), consumers (who can avoid throwing out week-old veggies) and grocers (who can reduce food waste and food replenishment spending).
Apeel’s retail partner Harps Food Stores, for example, has reportedly grown its margins on avocados by 65%.
That’s a lot less waste — and a lot more avocado toast.
CB Insights clients can read more about these trends here.