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Four design trends shaping food & drink packaging in 2021

There’s no denying that Covid-19 changed the face of retail across the globe. With lockdowns, travel bans and the closure of physical retail changing how and where we shopped, we saw e-commerce become vital to the continuation of everyday life for both businesses and consumers.

Naturally, this had an impact on how brands thought about their e-commerce strategy as well as how they marketed themselves and their products online. But, it also appears to have had another interesting effect.

In this new, socially-distanced world, brands had to get creative in how they made meaningful connections with their customers. For many food and drink businesses, the parcel they were sending in the mail would now be the only chance they would get to have a physical interaction with their customers.

As such, when looking at the packaging design trends set to shape 2021, we’re seeing a clear theme. Brands are increasingly using art-inspired packaging rather than plain or commercial parcels for their products as they aim to bring a little piece of their brand experience to where customers are now – at home.

Product names front and center

One of the biggest design trends for food and drink packaging next year is all about making product names the star of the show. Instead of using illustrations, imagery or even brand logos to make the product stand out, these designs leverage creative lettering and typography to give each product its own unique personality.

This trend is especially great for product-focussed businesses that are looking to increase brand awareness as it leaves no doubt as to what the product is. It might look simple, but if consumers aren’t too familiar with your brand yet, this can be the perfect way to let them know what to expect.

Victoria-based Naked Life Sparkling drinks uses cursive typography set against muted, pastel labels to bring the product name to the front. No guessing games here – you know exactly which flavour is which.

Image credit: Naked Life Sparkling

Image credit: Packaging design by Pepper Pack Design on 99designs

Tiny illustrated patterns that reveal what’s inside

Rather than telling customers what’s inside the package, this packaging trend uses illustration to show them instead. While at first glance they might look like artful embellishment, these intricate patterns give customers a hint as to what they will find when they open up the product. Rather than ultra realistic, these patterns tend to be slightly simplified or abstract to give an artistic rendering of what’s inside the package rather than an actual reproduction of the product itself.

New South Wales-born Krumbled Foods uses tiny illustrations on the packaging of each of its Beauty Bites to show customers what the hero ingredient of each snack will be. Adorning its simple yet stylish packaging you might see illustrations of apples, cherries or lemons.

Image credit – Krumbled Foods

Image credit – Packaging design by Cime on 99designs

Technical and anatomical ink drawings

Whereas minimalism has long reigned supreme in packaging design, intricate illustrations will also have their time in the sun in 2021. Another design trend making waves as we move into the year is the use of technical illustrations that look like they were lifted straight from an encyclopedic museum plaque. 

Placed against simple but often striking backgrounds, these packaging designs use incredible detailing to give the impression they had been sketched by hand only moments ago. South Australian winery Penley Estate uses this style on the labels of its wines, setting detailed ink drawings against its signature gold circle emblem.

Image credit: Penley Estate

Image credit: Product packaging design by Martis Lupus on 99designs

Organically shaped colour blocking

One of the biggest design trends we expect to dominate food and drink packaging for the year ahead is colour blocking. Colour blocking as a design concept for packaging is nothing new, but what makes 2021’s colour blocking trend stand out is the unique textures, colour combinations and shapes that are being used. 

Appealing to our collective need for calm as we shrug off 2020, these blocks of colour are uneven and unbalanced, giving a softer, more organic feel to packaging. Minimum Wines from Goulburn Valley, Central Victoria incorporates unexpected shapes, tiny linework and freckled detailing to beautifully represent its organic, vegan and ethical manifesto across its wine labels.

Image credit: Minimum Wines

Image credit: Packaging design by monostudio on 99designs

Packaging design is so much more that making a product look pretty (although it certainly helps). Done well, packaging design can instantly tell you about a brand’s personality and what it’s all about. 

For brands that are planning on unleashing a new product on the market in 2021 – or simply redesigning the look and feel of a current range — packing it up in one (or more) of today’s hottest design trends is guaranteed to make an impact on your customers, wherever they might find you.

Shayne is Head of Marketing at 99designs, the global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to work together to create designs they love. He is a wrangler of collaboration, diversity, and creativity, helping bring more opportunities to people all around the world. 

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