10 Inspirational Packaging Ideas of 2021

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Before we get too far into 2022, it is worth looking back at the previous 12 months and what happened in the world of packaging. In particular, we wanted to pick out the packaging ideas of 2021 that most inspired us and – more importantly – understand why they resonated. What do they tell us about the potential for packaging to improve lives or better serve customers? So, here are 10 inspirational packaging ideas of 2021 that will get you thinking more innovatively.

  1. VIGO Kombucha LabelSaves

VIGO Kombucha, owned by the Cruz Group, trialled an experimental new antibacterial label design for its range of kombucha drinks. Experimental technology was used to incorporate antimicrobial properties into the transparent label. From a consumer perspective, the bottle design did not look different but holding it for 20 seconds would help to disinfect their hand. VIGO reported that preliminary tests showed an antibacterial efficiency of 70%. With the last 12 months once again dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic, VIGO showed how applying innovative thinking to packaging design can help meet evolving customer needs.

  1. Haeckels Grown to Order Gift Sets

British natural skin care and wild fragrance company Haeckels took an innovative no-waste approach to its Christmas 2021 gift sets. Each set was grown to order which means that the included products were only manufactured once the customer had placed their order. As such there was a 2–3-week gap between ordering and the gift set arriving. What’s more though, Haeckels also grew the gift set packaging from mycelium. This meant there was no waste as packaging wasn’t being produced for a projected volume of orders. Only what was needed for actual orders was made. We love this innovative approach to sustainable packaging and hope to see more brands adopting a grow-to-order mentality.

  1. LiquiGlide EveryDrop

A spin-off of MIT’s Varanasi Lab, LiquiGlide is an innovator of slippery coatings for packaging. Last year it partnered with industrial designer Yves Béhar of fuseproject to create new zero-waste packaging for the beauty sector. EveryDrop packaging uses LiquiGlide’s coating technology to allow products to flow freely which means every bit of them can be used – compared to current packaging where a certain percentage of the product is left stuck inside. This not only means that consumers buy less (because they can use the whole product) but the packaging is easier to recycle because it’s truly empty. It’s a great example of evolution in packaging design to solve age-old problems.

  1. Allbirds Tree Dasher

Sustainable sneaker company Allbirds teamed up with Enlisted Design to reinvent traditional sneaker packaging for its new performance running shoe, Tree Dasher. Tree Dasher sneakers are made of as many natural and environmentally friendly materials as possible. These sustainable credentials are reflected in the packaging, which uses 100% compostable materials. The custom designed box is longer and slimmer than the traditional shoe box. It also uses a curved design rather than the commonly seen sharp corners. All of it tells the consumer that these are not your standard running shoes. Not only is Allbirds standing out via its packaging, but it’s also demonstrating its brand credentials of innovation and sustainability.

  1. Prescription Paper Pill Bottle

There are some product categories where packaging innovation seems more difficult than others. For example, pharmaceutical packaging must protect the contents from light, water and other contaminants. It must also meet stringent safety criteria including being child resistant. As such, it feels impossible for the packaging to be anything other than the plastic pill bottles and blister packs we’re all familiar with. Yet, last year Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness and Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) partnered to create a paper version of the prescription pill bottle. The resulting design is 100% compostable and biodegradable, uses no plastic, no artificial glue or toxic dyes. But it also meets all of the industry requirements, including FDA packaging regulations. The Prescription Paper Pill Bottle is light and water resistant, and has a child-resistant cap. What’s truly amazing though is that Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness and TOM have made the design open source meaning that any pharmacy can download and manufacture it. We love the idea of shared packaging design to drive a step change.

  1. Degree Inclusive

This fantastic prototype concept from adaptive design studio Sour and Wunderman Thomson reinvented deodorant packaging to make it more accessible. The partners worked with Unilever to create the packaging design, known as Degree Inclusive, for its Degree deodorant brand (Sure, Shield or Rexona in some markets). There are several things that Degree Inclusive changes about traditional deodorant packaging to make it easier for people with limited mobility or visual impairments to use. This includes an easy-grip shape. The roll-on applicator is larger so it can cover more surface area in a single use. There is also a magnetic cap closure and hook on the lid which allows the deodorant to be hung up. Braille is used on the label. It’s a brilliant concept that we hope other packaging designers will take notice of. Particularly, as Wunderman Thomson reports that companies that are inclusive are 1.7 times more likely to be innovative in other ways.

  1. OffLimits Single Serve Cereal

Cereal company OffLimits was created to shake up the cereal sector. It maintains the familiar bright colours and mascots that we associate with cereal, but with plant-based, gluten-free, organic, kosher, vegan and artificial-free contents. The company’s most recent launch is its single serve cereal boxes, which contain one portion of cereal. While other cereal companies offer small size boxes, what we love about OffLimits is that it has rethought the design of its single serve boxes with the customer in mind. As such, the packaging is designed to function as a bowl as well if desired. A perforated top opens up the whole box so that milk can be poured in, and the cereal eaten from it. This also means that OffLimits cereal can more easily be consumed on the go and out of the home, which broadens its potential audience.

  1. Olay Easy Open Lid

Another great accessible packaging concept last year came from skincare giant Olay. Its Easy Open Lid was a limited-edition prototype developed with and for people with disabilities. The resulting cap design was raised higher than usual and featured wings to make it easier to grip and open. It also featured Braille so users could easily identify the contents. The new design was only available as an option when buying online but had no extra charge. In addition, Olay made the Easy Open Lid an open-source design which means other beauty and skincare brands can use it to make their products more accessible. They can also adapt it which hopefully will lead to a design that works with a wider range of products.

  1. OTACA Tequila

NFC experts Identiv teamed up with OTACA Tequila to make the latter’s bottles digitally enabled. An NFC tag is incorporated into the top of each bottle of tequila which customers can tap with an NFC-enabled smartphone or device to access information and content. What’s more, the tag connects to a blockchain powered by SUKU which means each individual bottle can be identified. The digital experience includes authentication of the product (via the blockchain), information about the brand, its founders and its plans, and even the ability to place a new order. We love the idea of incorporating repeat purchasing into packaging itself. Being able to simply tap a product once you notice it is running low and instantly place a new order is a fantastic user experience. [caption id="attachment_10760" align="aligncenter" width="679"]


OTACA is the first tequila company to fully digitize its product offerings with NFC. The tap-and-go NFC model incorporates Identiv’s experiential design into smart packaging, inviting the brand’s loyal customers to engage, track, and authenticate their purchase.[/caption]

  1. Pleasing

Pleasing is a new gender-neutral beauty brand from Harry Styles. With beauty traditionally having been very much aimed at and marketed at women, Pleasing takes a fresh approach to its packaging design. This is most obvious in its range of Perfect nail polishes. The marble effect of the caps and the sleek shape of the bottles sets them apart from the traditional nail varnish bottle design. The packaging tells you that the brand is doing things differently. In fact, it’s not immediately obvious at first glance that the product is nail polish. The design has a luxurious, art-like feel that customers will be proud to have out on display in their homes. We’re intrigued to see how other beauty companies may push the boundaries of their packaging design.


By Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at retail futures consultancy Insider Trends.