PACKAGING FORESIGHT for your business

For over two decades, leading companies have relied on PTIS and Leading Futurists to guide their strategies and programs, through every three year Future of Packaging consortia, and now with our valued global alliance partners, provide insightful Packaging Foresight that you can use to help guide and grow your business.

Contact us to stay ahead of key drivers and trends impacting packaging.

Brian Wagner

Honoring Mentors and the Future Supply Chain

Jul 29, 2021

Packaging and the Future Supply Chain
By Jeff Wincel
When I look at the landscape of packaging and supply chain and try to envision what is on the future horizon, I start by looking back.  In the 1980’s I began my career in automotive procurement and supply chain. Even at that time, there was a significant effort for what was called the “greening” of packaging at a time before Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was even a thing. There was a practical understanding that by converting from disposable to returnable dunnage, efficiencies were to be gained and money to be saved. That early career experience imprinted on me an expectation of what “normal” packaging and supply chain planning looked like.

While I was in the automotive industry, whether at the OEM level (such as Ford and GM) or the large tier one level, these packaging and supply chain efforts were apparent. It was not unusual to find packaging engineers among the supply chain staff, manufacturing staff, or even business unit staff. The push didn’t stop at the company level but was expanded (and expected) at the lower tier levels as well.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and a couple of industries, only to find that this example of “normal” in the automotive industry did not flow naturally to other industries.  Working in aerospace and electronics/semiconductors I found companies replete with poorly designed, over-engineered, and supply inefficient packaging.  Detrashing internal packaging was still an operation priority, although you’d seldom if ever, see a packaging professional on staff.
So perhaps the future of packaging and supply chain isn’t some disruptive change in technology or practice, but simply the application of the fundamentals of our professions. Provided optimized package designs that enable the reduction in the waste stream and optimize deadhead logistics routes. Engage packaging engineers early in the design and supply planning process to provide for the right level of product protection while optimizing package and logistics density. The adage that “old things are new again” certainly apply to packaging and supply chain in many industries.

Jeff Wincel is an international purchasing executive, industry leader, and published author. He has been selected as one of the “Pros to Know” by Supply & Demand Chain Executive Magazine in 2002, 2004, 2007, and 2012.

Covid Legacies Shaping Packaging
By John Mahaffie
Like the Great Depression, both world wars, the late 60s, and other epochal historic events, the Covid-19 Pandemic will leave legacies, near term, lingering, and permanent.
And 2020 was also a historic year for social issues, focused on equity, inclusivity, and diversity. Those issues combine with pandemic impacts, driving a new impetus for change in society and commerce.
The effects are all over the map, from the social to the technical, from the local to the global. This article explores a selection of critical impacts to illustrate the wide-ranging implications for packaging of the “new normal.”
Supply chain – Supply chains failed during the pandemic. Industries will respond by moving yet more production homes from overseas, implementing greater automation, hedging against production and supply chain interruptions, and decentralizing more production. As Jeff Wincel notes in his article in this issue, a key to putting things right is “simply the application of the basic fundamentals of our professions.” We got complacent as a global system, single sourcing far too much and counting on a smooth global movement of goods. We know better. And we have ever more powerful tools, notably artificial intelligence, to help create durable, agile systems.

FORECAST: Intensifying efforts from now forward, and a permanent legacy. Costs will often be higher.
Sagging incomes and a new frugality – Born of fears and economic loss during Covid, a new frugality will bolster value products (and retailers like Dollar General). Whole cohorts of U.S. and global societies have had a sharp economic setback that won’t heal quickly. Even as people’s incomes recover, they will often hold on to their sense of insecurity. Developing and delivering brand purpose becomes more important and more critical.

FORECAST: this will be at least a 3–5-year legacy, with residual frugality beyond.
Inclusiveness – Coinciding social trends around justice and diversity bring a quick rise of inclusive thinking for packaging. As with sustainability, inclusive packaging implies whole systems assessments of the packaging value chain. Where can our packaging gain ground?

FORECAST: An issue and area of opportunity for positive change now forward.
Grocery delivery has found new customers who will continue to shop that way. For packaging and marketing, fewer consumers have occasions for seeing endcap promotions, sales, and new product introductions. For fresh produce, consumers turn to rely on others or simply good luck for getting decent-choice fruits and vegetables. That may mean an opportunity for more branding of select produce, packaged for protection when handled by third-party shoppers like Instacart.

FORECAST: We will see more dark stores and other innovations for fulfilling grocery orders. Online shopping tools will increasingly find ways to pitch new products, promotions, impulse buys.
Fear leaves a legacy. The Covid-19 pandemic retrained people’s ways of thinking, worrying, reacting. Those fears spilled over into the safety of retail spaces, deliveries, and products that have been touched. The mental/emotional traces linger, and will, especially, shape our reactions to future product safety news and crises. There will be PR and marketing around sanitary, health, and safety practices. Those make sense for a company to do. Reassure people, but of course, don’t fail to carry out the promises.

FORECAST: Ongoing, now forward. Savvy companies see consumer fear as a permanent issue for monitoring and will look at how to innovate in products, packaging, and processes to address it.
The good in the bad
The pandemic revealed weak and inadequate systems and taught people that issues are complexes of social and technical factors. That means that we have learned lessons that will help us build stronger systems for the future.

FORECAST: From the Covid experience, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and social activists, (and even politicians) will be working to respond, innovate, and change the ways we do things.

A final thought from Ernest Hemingway
Though he was not known for his poetry, Hemingway always brought a crisp simplicity to his writing, even in verse. To paraphrase part of his poem “The Age Demanded” (1922):
And in the end, the age was handed
The sort of stuff that it demanded.
John Mahaffie is a co-founder and principal of Leading Futurists LLC, a consultancy that helps organizations explore change and discover new opportunities.

Quotes for our times…

“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” − Japanese proverb
“The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it’s unfamiliar territory”  − Paul Fix, American film and television actor (1901-1983)
“It is far better to foresee even without certainty than not to foresee at all” — Henri Poincare, French mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and philosopher of science, (1854-1912)
“While individuals cannot control the future, they can exercise considerable influence over it. They need not inherit and respond, they can initiate and shape” — James P. Gelatt, Author and management expert (1944-)
Telling the future by looking at the past assumes that conditions remain constant. This is like driving a car by looking in the rearview mirror. “ — Herb Brody, writer, editor, physicist (1957-)

Honoring Dr. Aaron Brody

We learned that we had lost one, if not the top Food Science and Packaging Professional in the Industry. The distinguished Dr. Aaron L. Brody passed away after providing guidance to the Food and Packaging Industry for more than 60 years. He will be deeply missed by most and if you knew him, he would say “Whaaaat???” (quite loudly)! Aaron was respected by his colleagues – he could be demanding, challenging, tough, insistent, and quirky, but he was Aaron and we would not change a thing about him! There will not be another Aaron! At PTIS we often talked about how one might replace him if he stopped consulting and our answer was always “it would take at least 5 people” and we would still be missing something. We wish Dr. Brody a fond farewell and he is now with his wife of Carolyn of 68 years – rest in peace dear friend and mentor.

Click here to donate to the Aaron & Carolyn Brody Distinguished Lecture in Food Packaging Endowment at Michigan State University –
After following the link, type A11512 in the search bar at the top, and the “Aaron & Carolyn Brody Fund” will pop up.

Our next 2022 Future of Packaging program
In 2022, the Future of Packaging team will again do its deep-dive exploration of packaging’s future, now with a post-pandemic lens, and an eye on accelerating change.
As never before, we need clarity on the future. Contact us for more on our programs and to learn more about the promise of foresight in packaging and what to do about it. Please see:, or contact any team members listed below.
Some additional resources:

The Future of Packaging – PTIS and Leading Futurists Collaboration
Since the late 1990s, leading companies from across the packaging value chain have relied on PTIS and Leading Futurists to guide their future-focused strategies, leveraging foresight tools to anticipate change and navigate through uncertain waters. Every three years we offer the Future of Packaging program for a multi-sponsor deep dive into the shape of change for the sector.

Our tools help to assure your packaging is hitting on key global trends and stay ahead of competitors. These services can be delivered live or remotely and include:
  • The Future of Packaging Programs
  • Scenario Planning Programs and Workshops
  • Customized Trends & Insight Workshops
  • Teaching techniques such as Horizon 3 thinking
  • Ongoing future insights newsletter
  • Individual company “Future-proofing” audit of packaging, operations