In the not too distant future a carton of orange juice will flash your name just before you walk past it in the supermarket aisle. As you move closer, the carton will personalise all of the nutritional information to explain why it fits exactly with your dietary needs.

Sound a bit wacky? This was one of many packaging concepts discussed during the recent BFiP Carton Conference and according to many in the industry is not too far from reality.

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the BFiP Carton Conference with one of Zeta’s clients, Benson Group, the UK’s leading carton manufacturer. The event provided great insight into their industry – and of the crazy ways that digital is going to redefine product packaging.

A Glimpse Into the Future

2012 is hotly tipped to be the year that leading retailers merge online and offline technology into one seamless shopping experience. So it seemed the perfect time for the me to attend the conference. (For example M&S introduced a goal this year to become the UK’s leading multi-channel retailer by 2013/14).

Expecting a lot of discussions about augmented reality and QR codes, I was pleasantly surprised that the main topic of the conference was ‘The Future Consumer’- many speakers looked into the future by five years and beyond.

Introducing Plastic Electronics – and Psychic Cupboards

So back to my orange juice. The interactive carton tells me the product is perfect for my diet goals, so I buy it, along with a host of other products all calling my name. (I would like to fix my diet needs so every product in an aisle flashed my name, that would be cool).

Back at my futuristic house, I unpack my shopping, placing each product in its designated home which then recalculates my cloud-based stock system. Through ‘Plastic Electronics’ and ‘Near Field Communication’ my stock system communicates with each product so it knows when it needs re-stocking. My shopping list (accessed from any device) is automatically updated in real time; certain products can also be on re-order for delivery when the stock reaches a certain point.

The Wine is Talking To Me!

As all shopping lists should, mine includes a couple of bottles of Chile’s finest red wine. But in a few years these will come with an electronic ink label and an audio recommendation from a professional sommelier. E-ink enables the label to change, so my bottle of wine could update its own label with the number of days, months or years since it was bottled or purchased – fantastic for wine collectors.

From the supermarket aisle to my futuristic home, Plastic Electronics and e-inks can greatly improve the shopping experience. This personalised approach makes every product feel as though it was made specifically for me – heightened interaction with products will help brands form closer loyal relationships with consumers.

Too Much Information?

But (there is always a but!) there was a concern regarding whether people will want to share their personal information. To consider this, we must once again look to the future.

Today, most people under the age of twenty share every second of their lives across the web. They have grown up with a social internet – very different to how most industry leaders spent their youth. Social media (Facebook in particular) has made the web a much more social experience – a far cry from the solitary place it once was.

The Internet Has Changed Your Brain

People use the internet in a way which is similar to their everyday existence offline. The industry leaders and decision-makers of tomorrow will have no problem sharing their information if it makes their lives easier and lets them spend more time working on the things they love. These future leaders are currently at sixth form, college and university – so we’re talking years, not decades.

The iPad revolutionised the print industry and stands to be far more profitable. Tablets have taken the world of design on a very interesting journey. I believe technology such as plastic electronics and e-inks will redefine the way we think about product packaging.

In the not-too-distant-future, when a cake says ‘eat me!’ you will have a genuine excuse!

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