Can’t wait five more months for Christmas?

Well, never fear.

With so many of us feeling robbed of a “proper Christmas” last year, Christmas 2021 is popping up early in all sorts of places – whether that’s a Christmas in July movie binge on Netflix, nights out to make up for missed work parties, or a jump-start on gift-buying.

It’s never too early to start planning for Christmas, and by all accounts this Christmas is going to be BIG. That’s because families across the nation have stashed away record sums of disposable income over the lockdowns of the past year, leading analysts to predict a possible boom in spending following the end of pandemic restrictions.

Brands which aim to take advantage of post-pandemic spending sprees by launching seasonal products and packaging should be setting their wheels in motion now. But how can businesses be confident that the packaging they choose strikes the right chord this Christmas?

Let’s look at five packaging trends likely to appeal to customers during the Christmas 2021 season…

Nostalgia/Vintage

Putting your brand’s best foot forward this Christmas might mean stepping one foot into the past.

That’s because wistful or sentimental feelings about bygone days have been on the rise, mainly as a reaction to the upheaval and uncertainty of lockdowns. This brand of escapism, in which we yearn for the experiences of more comfortable times, is prompting us to reach for more of the music and films (and products) we have loved before.

In the world of packaging, this is translating into a rise in classic and vintage styles in several product categories, from cakes and confectionery to dog food to beauty. Traditional styles tend to perform strongly, as they can convey a rich heritage and sense of authenticity as well as communicate the presence of high quality ingredients and pure provenance.

At Christmas a traditional look and feel also helps to conjure up memories of family celebrations, while helping consumers to fulfil their wish to pass on the experiences of their youth to the next generation.

Natural/Earthy

The current popularity of organic-inspired shapes and designs could stem from our renewed love of walking with nature, the rise of “biophilic” design or heightened public awareness around sustainability.

Whatever the reasons, earthy colour palettes and nature-inspired visual themes – from woodland creatures to raindrops – are everywhere. These can be combined with pops of vibrant colour or metallics to achieve an “elevated rustic” style, an American import currently popular in the world of interior design.

Styles that use eye-catching, Instagrammable patterns are also proving enduringly popular, particularly with younger consumers. Luckily, today’s packfronts offer more versatility and precision than ever before possible, so intricate patterns with beautiful consistency and colour integrity can be achieved with ease.

Recyclable/Reusable

Many of today’s consumers share a focus on living “green”, and this has led to a growing number of brands working to update their packaging to reflect the trend. This could mean ‘designing out’ packaging elements which hinder recyclability, thus making kerb-side recycling quicker and easier for individuals and businesses.

Another way to boost your products’ green credentials is to make packaging reusable. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, reuse models bring wide-ranging benefits including “superior user experiences, user insights, brand loyalty, and cost savings”.

These benefits have motivated some brands, such as children’s clothier Monday’s Child to create packaging from recycled cardboard which can later be used as a doll’s house.

But products aimed at children are just the beginning. Cleaning and grocery products in particular are exploring reuse models such as in-store refill, which can be bolstered by incentivisation schemes. Meanwhile, at-home refill models, which often involve a higher investment into a more durable product initially, are an excellent option for the Christmas season. That’s because reusable bottles, particularly popular in the beauty sector, generally give a more luxurious and/or “timeless” appearance.

Smart Packaging

Digital technology is surging forward, and – albeit lagging behind somewhat – is our familiarity with and ability to use new platforms and apps.

In packaging design, advanced technologies such as browser-based app, image recognition, QR codes and invisible barcodes are being implemented on packfronts. Brands can harness these technologies to drive engagement with consumers. These technologies make possible an entirely new landscape of messaging and marketing – from social shopping, quizzes and games to personalised ads and even augmented reality.

Christmas offers and recipes can be accessible to end users via smart packaging, or customers can be helped to form a connection between an in-store selection of products to a wider range available online.

Limited Edition Artist-Inspired

Whether emulating the style of Pop art masters such as Andy Warhol, or commissioning up-and-coming prodigies of the art world to create original designs, one-off limited-edition artist-inspired packaging is a trend which has endured throughout the past year and we expect to see it continuing into the Christmas season. For a tremendous example of this see Kiehl’s yearly collaborations with artists the likes of Jeff Koons, Peter Max and Kate Moross. The designs marry ingenious design with a festive feel, for packaging that’s both joyful and memorable.

After all, Christmas is the perfect time to let creativity run wild – and to attract new customers to your brand with festive, characterful packaging.

Let’s face it, after the challenges of the past year we all “need a little Christmas”, and with the right packaging, your business may be celebrating long after the gift-giving is done and dusted.