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There is a range of other e-commerce related challenges that packaging innovators can also try to address, such as designs with improved protection for delicate products, designs that enable easier filling at the retailer side, designs that enable a product to be easily returned and designs that give a better customer experience when they open the package. 

As the recovery gets underway, the packaging industry will need to reflect on market changes and adapt to the new normal. As with many businesses, packaging manufacturers have been focused on weathering the storm, but now is the time to re-energise their innovation activity. If anything, the pandemic has opened up many new opportunities.

It seems unlikely that the sustainability trend will go away, so now the challenge for packaging producers will be to balance sustainability with hygiene. Consumers will still want to see the same progress in packaging as before the pandemic – higher use of recycled materials, less ‘unnecessary packaging’, less plastic, improvements in ease of recycling – but it is important that these improvements are not made at the expense of reduced hygiene, as that trend seems to be here to stay, at least for the next few years.

For packaging businesses that are considering adapting their product offering to address these challenges, it’s important to put in place the right strategy to protect their innovations on the way to market. It’s likely that competitors will be undergoing the same thought-process and any novel ideas or improvements could be copied if left unprotected.

Applying for patent protection sooner rather than later is often the right strategy, even if the concept continues to be developed after this point, to account for further changes in the situation and the lasting effects of the pandemic becoming better known.