Digital Technology Creates Opportunities in Packaging Design

Author:Fraser Church, CPX Group

Last month I attended that Packaging Innovations & Luxury Packaging London 2019 event.  As always it was great to see the latest packaging trends and talk with brands and designers. As the Pentawards showcased there is as much creativity going into a brands packaging, as there is in advertising the product.  What was clear from the event is how technology advances are helping brands address some key challenges of smaller product runs, counterfeiting and how to engage the customer.

NovelTea enjoys the same quality as larger brands, due to the ability to affordably produce shorter runs.
Coppefield Labels Photography by Andre Ainsworth
Thailand's T.K.S. Technologies sample of holographic security stickers
Cameron Worth said it was not about being smart, but about providing a useful and entertaining customer experience.


A number of carton manufacturers, label printers and design agencies were extolling the benefits that digital print can deliver the packaging industry. At the show, the subject was touched on by a number of speakers including Neil Farmer from Neil Farmer Associates a specialist global packaging research consultancy.  Farmer shared examples of where smaller challenger brands, for example NovelTea, can now enjoy the same design quality as larger brands, due to the ability to affordably produce shorter runs of labels of varying designs.

Digital has opened the door to produce different designs, efficiently and within short notice. Brands can now produce design concepts and test them in different markets. It has also opened the door for packaging personalization, with web-to-print platforms allowing consumers to directly personalize a gift and product packaging, a growing and profitable trend in the market.

When it comes to sustainability and packaging, digital has environmental and cost savings benefits.  The ability to affordably produce shorter runs, allows brands to only order the quantity required rather than bulking up volumes to justify a potentially larger litho print run. This is good for the inventory, and great for reducing potential wastage.

Many package printers and converters are adding digital printing technologies to their existing mix of production platforms. For example, we have seen Be’eriLeaderform and TKS diversify into this exciting market. Designers, brands and creative agencies should talk with their packaging suppliers to better understand the opportunities digital presents from both a creative and budgetary standpoint. Doing this will allow brands and designers more freedom to create compelling, high quality design that can be affordably produced regardless of the size of the job run.


Cameron Worth from SharpEnd gave an engaging talk on how brands can connect with customers both at the point of sale and throughout their customer journey, by using near field communication (NFC) technology to link the packaging to online resources. The essence from Cameron’s session was, that it was not about being smart, but about providing a useful and entertaining experience for the customer – for example learning about a wine, how to pair it with food and sharing your consumption with others!

Cool “Tap the Cap” Icon

As customers increasingly want to know about the provenance of products, I anticipate the connectivity of packaging, whether it be through NFC, augmented reality (AR), or unique digital print, will help brands build trust and relationships with their customers.


Neil Farmer also highlighted one of the biggest growth areas of brand protection and provenance. A staggering 2.5% of Luxury Goods purchased globally are actually counterfeit! The use of digital print, NFC and blockchain technology, linked with online platforms are one of the major tools brands and their print partners are working to protect both the customer and their brand.

One company leading the way is TKS, a print business with a deep history of security print. They are at the forefront of developing solutions to help brands ensure their customers only receive authentic products.


The Packaging Innovations event not only highlighted how advances in digital technology are creating new opportunities but how it is challenging the creative community to think outside of the box.  Creativity need not come from the design, but also the materials used and the technology format in which they were produced.  For example, Label Apeel showed how Copperfield Gin not only used the exquisitely designed front label to convey the brand identity, but also used the reverse to include the original recipe.


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