Without a doubt, the impacts of the COVID-19 virus have been devastating. At the time of this writing, the disease has claimed over 1.75 million lives worldwide, 330,000 of them in the U.S. alone. However, as we look back on this past year with respect and grief for the many lives lost, we can also reflect on a few small positives that resulted from the pandemic. Many industries were able to alter their manufacturing and distribution practices in ways that will benefit our world for decades to come, and packaging is chief among them. Below are 5 ways the Coronavirus changed the packaging industry for the better.
It created an Ecommerce boom
As brick-and-mortar stores began to shutter their doors in response to the pandemic, consumers turned in droves to Ecommerce alternatives to satisfy their needs. The leap from brick-and-mortar to online retail was significant; according to data from the US Census Department of Commerce, Ecommerce spending leapt by 42.2% from the first quarter of 2020 to the second, a period of about 6 months. The packaging industry, in turn, benefited from the surge in Ecommerce sales, particularly pharmaceutical packaging and plastics. According to market research by Reportlinker.com, the global packaging market is projected to grow to $1.6 billion by 2021.
It changed the way we package and prepare food
Perhaps no other sector was impacted by COVID as much as the food industry. In just a few short months, restaurants, grocery stores, and other food suppliers had to adjust to meet new safety standards and assuage the fears of anxious customers. Salad bars, food steam tables, and “bulk bins” of products like beans and nuts were converted into display areas for prepackaged foodstuffs. And everyone in the food distribution chain became more conscious of the way we handle and prepare food. Already, food manufacturers are exploring ways to make their wares more hygienic and tamper-resistant while remaining easy for consumers to open and use. While the future is never certain, it seems likely that the COVID-19 pandemic may have shifted the way we buy and consume prepackaged food forever.
It expedited a technological transformation
Even though, as noted above, the effects of the pandemic were mostly negative, it did have the silver lining of speeding up business adoptions of new technologies—not by just one or two years, but several. For instance, in the 2020 McKinsey Global Survey, executives across several major industries reported that the pandemic accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions, as well as internal operations, by as many as four years. Company leaders also reported a big shift to digital offerings—a change that may have otherwise taken five to seven years.
According to Keith Higgins, VP of digital transformation for Rockwell Automation, the tech revamp will continue long after 2020. In an interview with Digital Journal, he stated, “The pandemic has demonstrated the need to adopt digital tools to automate processes, obtain real-time information, and create agile supply chains that comply with new restrictions.” He went on to say that flexible adaptation to new technology will be a must for companies that wish to thrive in a post-COVID world.
It brought awareness to longstanding distribution issues
The U.S. has long been reliant on other countries, especially China, to supply pharmaceutical products like acetaminophen, antibiotics, and blood pressure medication, but it was not until the pandemic that the issue was brought to the forefront of public awareness. Leading news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times ran articles about the chaos the US would face should it suddenly lose access to China—which supplies over 80% of crucial medications—due to war, trade disagreements, natural disaster, or another pandemic. While, again, the future remains to be seen, it seems far more likely, post-COVID, that lawmakers will push for American-made pharmaceuticals, and that their constituents will demand it.
It brought DIY-ers together
As the nation’s biggest manufacturing and distribution centers struggled to execute their gigantic pivot, everyday Americans stepped in to create badly-needed PPE equipment for healthcare workers and first responders. Individuals and small “mom-and-pop” companies used their own 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, and other fabrication equipment to create face shields, masks, and more for their local communities. In a year characterized by loss and anxiety, it stood as a stark reminder that, even in the darkest times, total strangers will come together to fulfill a cause bigger than themselves.
Need Packaging Supplies in Richmond, Virginia?
During this tough time in our nation’s history, SSI Packaging is proud to provide packaging products to small local businesses and individuals. Our product catalogue includes everything you need to package your products, including bubble wrap, envelopes, and cardboard boxes. To place an order, check out our online store here.