What the Pandemic Teaches Us about Product Packaging

Photo: Hippo Premium Packaging

Want to increase your sales? Try some new packaging! Granted, I am in the packaging world so you’d expect me to say that… but the suggestion actually is backed up by facts. Moreover, due to the current pandemic, consumers are influenced by packaging even more than before.

A recent survey asked consumers about their in-store and online shopping behaviors. The results highlighted ways brands can communicate the value of their products through innovative packaging. The study’s authors determined product packaging has taken on an even more vital role in today’s market due to the pandemic.


Overwhelmingly, respondents stated packaging and labels exert “incredibly important” influences on their decisions to purchase products. A whopping 66 percent said they are paying more attention to packaging and labels and have changed their purchasing decisions based on what they see.

Think about that for a minute.

Running out to a store or dispensary now carries inherent risks that simply weren’t a consideration before; for many people, online shopping has become the safest choice. Correspondingly, e-commerce sales have increased significantly. This means it’s more important than ever for packaging to communicate brand attributes and benefits, because there aren’t any people behind the counter to explain the product’s features.

Quality packaging conveys trust in a brand. When people see quality on the outside (the package), they assume there will be quality on the inside (the product). Accordingly, packaging should draw the consumer in, engage them with the brand, and delight them with extra touches, such as special finishes and textures like embossing, foils, and decorative elements, or a nice “feel good” note inside the package. These little embellishments go a long way in building love for a brand.

While the public’s fear of contamination has been lessened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s reassurances that transmission from surfaces “is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” a sizable percentage of the population will continue to disinfect packages upon arrival at their home. Accordingly, packaging designers need to pay special attention to coatings, inks, and substrates to make sure they won’t dissolve or smear with typical customer cleaning protocols. Hygiene and health are top-of-mind for many consumers, and this heightened concern will not disappear suddenly as the pandemic wanes.

The trend in packaging was shifting toward sustainable materials prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today that trend is declining, and the demand for established materials including plastic and glass is increasing. To reduce the risk of contamination, several companies have halted the use of reusable materials.

With many people out of work and budgets tight, smaller sizes and more affordable options within some product categories are selling far better than they did pre-pandemic. Plus, smaller sizes can provide a greater sense of comfort. For example, mini pre-rolls have become immensely popular because people don’t want to “share a puff” with others right now.

Reassuring your audience you take their concerns seriously will continue to be an important and powerful message. Well-designed, thoughtful packaging can address your consumers’ needs, reduce their anxieties, and offer solutions that will lead to enhanced brand loyalty and increased sales.

When the pandemic ends—and it will end—people will begin flocking to stores once more, and they will look for the brands that carried them through these challenging times. Companies that create relevant and appealing packaging today will reap the rewards well into the future.


Robert O’Shaughnessy is co-founder and partner at Higher Ground Agency, a public relations and marketing firm supporting the cannabis industry, where he manages the marketing and digital side of things. A graduate of Boston University, he is a frequent speaker and published author, and would probably really enjoy having a beer with you.