8 minute read

The Need for Smart and Sustainable Packaging

Packaging is changing. Smart and connected technologies are turning packaging into a digital key that adds value to both the business and consumer. 

Minimalistic products on store shelves

Packaging has always been vital for winning over new consumers and, in some cases, enhancing the functionality of products themselves. But packaging is changing. Smart and connected technologies are turning packaging into a digital key that adds value to both the business and consumer. 

Consumer behavior is also changing. According to the Trivium 2021 Global Buying Green Report, 54% of consumers consider sustainable packaging when choosing a product. And consumers younger than 44 years old are leading this change, 83% indicate that they are willing to pay more for sustainably produced products. 

To meet this consumer demand, companies are leveraging smart packaging technologies to save costs, be more sustainable and to create a new digital threads that entertain and enlighten consumers. These customer interactions are creating real value for brands by sharing critical data on product acceptance, use and sustainability upstream.

packaging and a smart phone

What is Smart Packaging?

Smart and connected packaging are solutions that are connected, interactive, and context-aware, meaning the information presented on a consumer’s device is usually contextual to the product in hand. Smart packaging solutions are designed to improve product quality, ensure safety, prevent counterfeiting, and increase product shelf life. 

Smart packaging can also aid the consumer by enhancing ownership with how-to videos, care and handling, digital manuals and even a medium to present the stories behind the brand. There can be real benefits for both brands and consumers once the connection is made like… deeper relationships and better understanding of the product on hand.

Technologies used to make packaging “smart and connected” include Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID), Near-field Communication (NFC), and Quick Response codes (QR codes). Brands may connect these solutions to their own proprietary solutions or through a solution provider that meets their requirements for branding, customization, calls-to-action, and analytics, such as our Real platform.

67% of consumers want recycled packaging

Consumer Demand for Sustainable Packaging

Despite the pressures of the pandemic, sustainable packaging is enormously important for brands as consumers demonstrate interest in their own environmental footprint. As mentioned above, more than half (54%) of consumers take sustainable packaging into consideration when selecting a product and over two-thirds (67%) consider it important that the products they buy are in recyclable packaging.

What to Consider When Designing Your Smart and Sustainable Packaging

Smart packaging can be the most valuable communications channel your brand has and there are  Here are a few factors to consider when designing packaging.


While the carbon footprint of packaging is almost always very small compared to the product it holds, it’s often a single-use item and discarded upon opening.

Creating sustainable packaging is more than just a package that can be recycled. Sustainability includes the sourcing, materials, utility, and the end-of-life of the package. Packaging that can be recycled can work well, but only if consumers take that step. Biodegradable materials might be what marketing would like, but they may not suit the utility of the packaging. Work to gain an understanding of what sustainability options are feasible for your customers then build off this end-of-life to create packaging that fulfills its utility, is made from safe materials and is sourced from reliable partners. You may even go as far as providing ‘how to recycle’ instructions on the inside of your packaging. 


Accessible packaging can benefit a frequently overlooked audience. Make your packaging more inclusive by focusing on the opening mechanisms and verify that the typography, your logo, and any other visuals are legible. If possible, design packaging with multiple ways to open it. You want to give the customer as many options as possible to succeed.

Digital Content

According to a recent The Drum/YouGov report, 94% of consumers have scanned QR codes in the past year and 75% expect to continue using them in the future. This plus the fact that most people are walking the aisles with their phone in hand make digital content the most powerful tool to influence the purchasing decision. While crafting your message, we recommend appreciating the moment a customer has your product in hand to answer FAQs and build effective, business relevant, CTAs

Smart and sustainable packaging can entertain, provide instruction, and inform consumers while saving cost for printed inserts with digital content. It can also encourage deeper interactions with the physical product and digital brand presence.

Free guide to creating great product experiences

A free guide on creating great smart packaging experiences

Download our free guide to making great product experiences with smart packaging. The purpose of this 6-page white paper is to develop ideas on how to deliver meaningful brand experiences by leveraging your packaging, digital content, and customer-focused CTAs. You’ll gain ideas that add value without adding costs.

About Authentic Labs

At Authentic, we focus on adding value to products by delivering actionable content to consumers at the point of purchase and throughout the life of the product. Real was made to deliver the brand impact information consumers want in an environment that allows brands to maintain control of the content and narrative. Your brand. Your message.

Reach out to us or start your free Real account so we can help you make your packaging smart, reduce waste, enhance ownership, and create transformational data streams with packaging data.

Flatiron mountain landscape in Boulder, Colorado

About Authentic Labs

Authentic Labs are the developers of Real®, a platform for marketers to organize, host, and deliver smart and active and product and transparency content from packaging. 

Join Real and promote your brand’s transparency and sustainability efforts for free, then add products and smart experiences as needed.