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Packaging Trends 2021

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

Over recent months we have got together with our in house team of experts at Packaging Automation to see what 2021 might look like for packaging.

Although 2020 tore up the rule book and if nothing else taught us to expect the unexpected, here are our thoughts on what packaging trends we expect to see this year.


In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a decline in seasonal workers following Brexit and increasing labour costs around the globe, factory automation continues to be a priority for many.

Strongly evident across the globe in 2020, we anticipate that the focus on automation will continue throughout 2021 and in fact, the World Economic Forum Future Jobs Report also highlights Covid-19 as accelerating the adoption of automation.

Weighing, sorting and packing lines reduce the number of people required inside the pack house thereby freeing up labour to be transferred to other roles.

Since introducing the PA flagship Revolution Tray Sealer and the MiWeigh one customer has achieved increased efficiency by 15-20% together with reduced labour on the line.

The Revolution is a fully electric automatic tray sealer using motion control technology to provide high speed output with quick tool changes. MiWeigh is an award-winning, intelligent, performance management tool designed to improve the process of weighing food products into trays to improve productivity.

With increasing pressure placed on the food industry as restaurants and hotels remain closed to help stop the spread of the virus, there has been an increased demand for food at home, home delivery services and healthy ready meal options.

Big shifts in consumer shopping behaviour and lifestyle had led to the need for food businesses to pivot and diversify as well as ensure they achieve optimum efficiency and maximum output. As 2021 begins with further lockdown restrictions in place we anticipate this trend to continue.

With the installation of the PA Eclipse 182, Vibrant Vegan can now pack up to 40 packs per minute and the product shelf life has been improved too!

In this time of inevitable change, it is imperative that businesses can adapt and respond to change in an agile way and where necessary pivot the business.

New business Tastily is a prime example. Launched in July 2020 with no previous experience of heat sealing they turned to PA to help and guide them to the best solution for their product ensuring. As this new business grows and scales up, the beauty of Packaging Automation machines is that they are future proof and ready to grow with them!


The issue of sustainability has been on the agenda for our customers for several years and although things slowed down a little in 2020 due to Covid-19, we fully anticipate that it will be in the forefront of customers minds in 2021 and beyond.

With a growing focus on a circular economy and increased pressure from end consumers, we see many customers looking to not only reduce the amount of packaging but also wanting to ensure it is recyclable.

The challenge is finding a balance between reducing plastic packaging waste as well as reducing carbon footprint. Alternative packaging materials to plastics are continually evolving, so too is the understanding of all players in the supply chain including the handling of packaging waste and the infrastructure needs to be able to deal with this.

The PA Test Kitchen supports food manufacturers with clear facts about plastic packaging materials and the alternative options available, offering trials and tests to find the best solutions for them.

Our packaging seal technologist offers an honest and unbiased view, guiding customers through the development of new packaging concepts, selecting environmentally friendly alternatives and helping you access our many packaging suppliers contacts. Trials are carried out to emulate the performance on our range of equipment prior to decisions being made.

All of PA’s machinery is designed to use no compressed air giving a highly efficient machinery solution with a standby feature that minimises energy consumption when not in use.

Mono Materials

Increasing demand and continued growth towards the use of mono materials is expected to continue into 2021 alongside the need and desire to reduce plastic.

The beauty of mono material is that they easily fit into existing recycling streams where they can be returned to the existing mixed waste stream and be recycled into new food safe products again and again.

Utilising mono materials not only reduces the amount of plastic that is used, but it also ensures the packaging is recyclable and can save more on energy as less is required to produce and seal the material.

The mono materials trend will certainly be big in 2021.

SkinPAC on Board

The SkinPAC system of sealing uses a highly transparent barrier film that wraps tightly around the product like a second skin and forms a seal with the bottom of the tray.

This pack format offers high visibility vacuum packs without the need to add gas to the pack. SkinPAC can be used to achieve extended shelf life or to enhance the taste or colour of the product.

It can also result in packaging reduction with the use of a shallower tray than would otherwise be possible or a flat board and is a growing trend in both the meat and fish sector as well as ready meals.

Food Safety

Covid-19 has highlighted the need to not only ensure the product is safe for consumption but to reduce the element of human intervention and therefore the potential for contamination. We expect to hear more about this throughout 2021.


Over the years, technology has changed how we produce and find our food through applications, robotics, data, packaging and processing techniques with process and packaging helping to improve the shelf life and safety of food. With a world population of 7.8 billion the demand for food grows and the use of machinery ensures production efficiency at maximum outputs.

Technology has continued to play an important role at Packaging Automation and in 2020 we invested in a 3D printer print as well as a new Mori machine centre, we rolled out Lights Out Manufacturing and integrated Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality into our business. Virtual Reality in this time of social distancing has allowed us to continue to showcase and demonstrate our machines to customers, giving them the ability to virtually look inside the machines as well as see what it will look like in their factory or pack house.

As we continue to adapt and develop machines PA ensures they incorporate our remote monitoring software for preventative maintenance and that they are future ready for whatever the future may bring!

We fully anticipate that technology will continue to play an important role not only in our own business but in that of our customers across the globe.

Whilst not exhaustive these are the key things our team at Packaging Automation expect to see in 2021 but do please get in touch to let us know what you think.

Our thanks go to our partners around the globe who have contributed to this article.

To find out more about Packaging Automation or any of our partners please visit: or call 01565 755000.


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