Many of the changes caused by global megatrends are affecting consumption behaviour and posing ecological and commercial challenges – and opportunities.
Current megatrends include:
- Scarcity of resources
- Changes in population structure
- Conscious consumption
People are increasingly migrating to cities and towns, driven by the higher need for labour in urban areas. It is estimated that 70% of the world’s population, some five billion people, will be living in cities and towns by 2030.
Food and goods are often produced outside population centres and need to be packaged safely and transported efficiently. We need lighter and more durable packaging that can withstand transportation and extend the shelf life of food. According to Smithers Pira, within four years (in 2018) the global market for paperboard will be USD 184 billion.
At the same time, our lifestyles are changing. For example, the number of households comprising only one or two people is increasing. Combined with the growing popularity of takeaway meals, this increases the need for disposable food packaging based on wood fibre. Wood fibre will replace non-renewable raw materials in the production of microwave meal containers, for example.
How can we ensure efficient but sustainable logistics for billions of people?
SCARCITY OF RESOURCES
Preventing climate change calls for more efficient energy use.
Finland has a large amount of raw materials that can be used in the bioindustry. Most of the wood needed for bioproducts comes from rapidly growing conifers. Finland has a long tradition of using wood responsibly. Smart and systematic forestry ensures sufficient resources, even in the future. Annual forest growth in Finland is nearly 40 million cubic metres higher than the present use of forest resources. Of this amount, 20 million cubic metres could be used sustainably for bioindustry needs.
The recycling rate of wood-based materials in the EU is considerably higher than that of other packaging materials, such as plastic, glass and metal.
How will we be able to produce more while reducing our use of materials and energy?
Online commerce is growing exponentially. According to OC&C, international e-commerce will grow by more than 500% by 2020, from USD 25 billion to USD 130 billion. The Internet is transforming every industry, and consumers can increasingly make choices that are independent of national borders.
More and more products are being purchased online. This is reflected in growing volumes in the packaging industry, among other sectors. More advanced packaging technology is enabling online shops to sell a broader range of products, including products that previously required an unbroken cold chain from the producer to the point of sale. Aseptic packaging can be used to safely preserve milk and other sensitive foods.
Lighter packaging materials save energy and are better for the environment. New materials can also be used to preserve food products for longer: transport packaging is being developed that absorbs gases emitted by fruits during ripening, extending their shelf life and reducing waste.
Digitalisation is not only about bytes. It is also about our ability to create new solutions in response to changes in demand and commerce.
CHANGES IN POPULATION STRUCTURE
People are living longer than ever before. The life expectancy of a girl born in Finland today is 100 years. People are spending longer in retirement, travelling more and engaging in hobbies.
How is the growing number of healthier seniors taken into account in product development?
Longer life expectancy also increases the need for healthcare. Wood fibre can be used to produce pharmaceutical packaging, sterile packaging for hospitals and various home-care products, including hygiene products for the elderly.
People were long thought to be rational consumers whose decisions were only based on their needs. The term “LOHAS consumers” was introduced at the turn of the century. It stands for “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.” This group of consumers makes decisions based on ethics, health and safety. They expect not only the product, but also its packaging to have a small environmental footprint, meaning that the raw materials used in packaging are part of the image of a sustainable product. In addition to an environmental perspective, companies increasingly need to consider the sustainability of their products in terms of production and the entire supply chain.
Consumption decisions are affected by many other factors in addition to ethics and responsibility. Products and services are selected on the basis of physical well-being, pleasure, enjoyment and aesthetics, as well as their ability to make daily life easier.
How will we be able to respond to consumers’ changing needs?