The convergence of ultra-convenience with positive impact will revolutionize packaging design for the hospitality industry.
Hospitality is the act of being friendly and welcoming to guests and visitors. Packaging is much more than a container: it is the first contact guests have with the product and a fundamental element in conveying the personality of the brand. A complex task that is particularly relevant in the food and beverage hospitality sector.
As consumers expect food and beverage brands to protect not only their health and well-being but also the health of the planet, a strong awareness of physical, mental, and environmental care has been awakened.
New generations actively seek information about a product’s sustainability credentials and, of course, its packaging. They expect brands to help them consume smarter, with less packaging and less waste. Consumers will embrace packaging that prioritizes sustainable consumption, but that will also make it easier and more convenient than ever before.
New sustainable practices in hospitality are emerging, where consumers can buy products online, receive them in reusable packaging, return the empty product when finished, and receive their next order while the packaging is sterilized and reused.
Historically, convenience has led us to single-use packages. Single-use packaging is clearly damaging our planet. Plastic bottles, plastic coffee cups, straws, trays, bags—all are bought and thrown away in an endless cycle of thoughtless consumption. Since disposables were introduced in the 1950s, we have grown accustomed to a disposable life, with little thought as to what happens to the materials we use after we throw them in the trash.
Fortunately, society has begun to move away from this mentality in favor of reuse. The shift from disposable to returnable packaging involves overcoming cultural, economic, logistical, and hygienic barriers. But these are barriers that can be overcome by innovating and taking on board the commercial opportunity, brand differentiation, customer loyalty, compliance with plastic prevention regulations and, above all, the need to make real progress towards zero waste.
We will see more and more products packaged in valuable zero-waste containers, designed to be used over and over again. “Buy the product, borrow the packaging”.
The concern for sustainability and for using materials that are not only sustainable, but also reusable, recyclable, or compostable - in other words, for establishing a circular economy system in packaging and containers for food as a service - speaks of a long-term vision in which we reduce the production of packaging and, therefore, of waste.
Recycling is important, but the focus needs to be on the other two Rs: reduce and reuse.
In the case of hospitality packaging, the usual rules needed to stand out and communicate on supermarket shelves disappear. This allows rethinking packaging by offering durable rather than ephemeral designs. Labels can be minimal, sustainable, and removable. Packaging becomes both an object of desire and a statement of conscious consumption.
As part of efforts to reduce their environmental impact, we will also see more and more packaging refill and reverse-vending models in all categories, including luxury.
If restaurants take care of the plates on which they serve the food in their premises, they should do the same in their delivery, take away, grab & go experience... to maximize it and give it personality. In this new reality, waiters are replaced by delivery drivers. By losing the context of the restaurant (dining room, menus, dishes, music...) packaging is the only element that can transfer the philosophy of each restaurant/brand to each home.
Designers have a unique role to play in transforming the way things are made and communicated. The key will be to combine convenience and sustainability to create unique consumer experiences from hospitality packaging. This moment is a unique opportunity for change. To rethink hospitality packaging and bring something more sustainable, efficient, and useful. The time has come to step up and do difficult things. It’s our responsibility to the next generation to change our behavior.
By Hernán Braberman
Partner and Executive Design Director of tridimage, a Latin American agency that future-proofs CPG brands through packaging design.