Advancements in Vegan Packaging: Navigating 2024’s Thriving Plant-Based Market

Trend projections for this year herald plant-based diets as a pivotal cornerstone in today’s modern dietary preferences. The surge in the launch of over 1,610 new vegan products in 2023 alone echoes a resounding consumer sentiment; that many of us are leaning toward simpler, less processed foods that prioritize value and sustainability.

In this article, I’ll discuss the most important elements of vegan packaging, so businesses can maintain the highest standards while attracting wider demographics.

#1 Meeting regulatory standards.
For vegan enterprises, prioritizing certified materials sanctioned by reputable organizations is essential. This responsibility extends to ensuring materials and processes meticulously align with these stringent standards.

Mitigating the risk of cross-contamination with animal-derived ingredients during processing that caters to vegan food requirements is challenging, especially within shared facilities, but also necessary.

The selection of components involved in packaging, including lacquers, coatings, inks, dyes and performance-enhancing additives, demands careful consideration. These elements are under scrutiny among individuals seeking packaging solutions compatible with vegan principles.

Selecting adhesives for laminates or carton sealing in vegan contexts necessitates extreme caution too, which means packaging companies should avoid using gluten, bone glue and casein sourced from animal byproducts.

Although not obligatory, businesses can significantly ease consumer concerns by obtaining certifications from esteemed vegan organizations.

These could include the Vegan Society’s Vegan Trademark, Certified Vegan by Vegan Action, or the European Vegetarian Union’s Vegan Flower label. These serve as endorsements to purchasers, assuring them these products are aligned with the stringent vegan standards listed above.

#2: Optimal material selection.
The journey to crafting vegan packaging start with the meticulous selection of suppliers and materials. A spectrum of packaging options already exist that align seamlessly with ethical and practical considerations for vegan food items.

Procuring these materials from certified vegan suppliers serves as an exemplary starting point, ensuring the absence of any animal-derived ingredients in the packaging manufacturing process. This includes the exclusion of animal-based glues or specific dyes that might contain traces of animal byproducts.

Various sourcing options, like compostable plastics, paper and plant-based fibers offer eco-conscious alternatives capable of natural decomposition without leaving harmful residues.

Prioritizing highly recyclable and inert materials like glass or metal containers further minimizes chemical interactions with the packaged product, ensuring optimal product integrity.

For sustainable packaging solutions catering to vegan foods, options like Tupperware-style containers or reusable pouches crafted from silicone or other food-grade materials present themselves as eco-friendly choices, especially for products designed for multiple servings.

#3 Enhancing labeling practices.
The accurate and thorough labeling of vegan food products stands as a powerful catalyst for increasing food sales by eliminating consumer confusion. Businesses are strongly encouraged to incorporate detailed and precise labels on their products, ensuring adherence to essential regulatory requirements.

It might sound obvious, but clearly marking products as suitable for vegans is the best way to prevent consumers from choosing other products, as most won’t reach out to the manufacturer if uncertain.

To warrant this claim, precise attention should be given to ensuring all ingredients are exclusively plant-based and devoid of any animal-derived components, including additives, flavors, colors and processing aids.

Avoiding ambiguity in label claims also is crucial. For instance, terms like ‘Dairy-free’ or ‘lactose-free’ do not necessarily imply vegan status. Certain ingredients like Glycerin(e)/glycerol and stearic acid may have both animal-based and plant-derived origins, requiring explicit identification on the label if plant-derived.

Among other regulatory mandates, the inclusion of a “use by” or “best before” date on vegan food and beverage items remains essential in providing consumers with the correct consumption guidance.

Furthermore, labels should conspicuously highlight any allergens present in the product, like nuts, soy, wheat or gluten. Even if a product is vegan, the presence of potential allergens must be explicitly stated.

Providing guidance on proper storage requirements, including refrigeration needs or specific storage conditions essential for maintaining product quality, is essential, as is incorporating a barcode for seamless scanning at the point of sale and a batch or production code that enhances traceability and quality control measures.

#4 Leveraging packaging for brand identity.
Research underscores the profound impact of packaging on consumer psychology. Appealing packaging elicits brain activity in reward-associated regions, while unappealing packaging triggers negative emotions. This can significantly influence consumer emotional responses and purchase decisions.

With this in mind, the linchpin of successful vegan branding today now hinges on personality-infused packaging.

Leading plant-based brands like Oatly epitomize this approach with its packaging, designed to be cleverly witty and tongue-in-cheek. This stands in stark contrast to the conventional “preachy vegan” stereotype.

Numerous vegan brands are now crafting packaging that not only resonates with their core vegan audience but also forges connections with mainstream consumers. One tactic involves eschewing traditional vegan imagery and descriptions entirely.

For example, moving away from conventional greens, browns and muted tones, relinquishing attempts to appear ‘natural’ or ‘rustic.’ Instead, the focus shifts toward creating Instagram-worthy packaging with striking visuals and unique color palettes.

Packaging now serves as a canvas to amplify beyond traditional vegan brand messaging, instead emphasizing product taste, pleasure and enjoyment over ethical or health-related attributes.

This strategic shift avoids the stereotypical associations of veganism and the risk of alienating potential broader markets.

In summary, it’s clear as we navigate an era marked by conscientious consumption that the fusion of sustainability, regulatory compliance and innovative branding will continue to shape the narrative of the burgeoning plant-based market and its packaging in 2024 and beyond.

For over a decade, Charles Haverfield, CEO of U.S. Packaging & Wrapping, has led the company from a customer-driven approach, ensuring employees and management understand how to identify needs before and after a purchase. With a wealth of experience in the industry, Haverfield consistently delivers high-quality packaging implementation to align with clients’ goals and market demands, which effectively increase efficiencies while lowering costs.