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The process of innovation has evolved. While it previously began exclusively with technology and research focused on future scenarios, today innovation proposes a much more holistic and systemic approach. “It begins by looking at people’s behavior, habits and attitudes at the beginning of the production chain and considers all elements involved in the production process rather than focusing purely on the end product,” says Antonia Mann, senior consultant at trend consultancy Mandalah. In the case of packaging, design should transcend form and become a way of looking at the process itself; the packaging should represent the values, the mission and the intentions of the brand.
Innovation is a driver of business. “But it also promotes positive change, making improvements for an individual, family, community, society, country and the world,” explains Mann. Companies that make changes within their business, based on desires of individuals who drive the market need, can have a much further-reaching effect. “Good, sustainable innovation should make life better for individuals and for society, and respect the environment,” continues Mann. The benefits of innovation are multifaceted and feed each other synergistically. Mandalah— a consultancy that identifies and tracks consumer trends that emerge from changes in society, technology, environment, economy and politics—emphasizes that for innovation to be worthy and sustainable, benefits for individuals, society and the environment must be achieved together.
Sustainable packaging initiatives represent the most obvious focus for innovation in recent years. Eco-conscious companies are driven by consumers who are becoming increasingly aware of the need to care for the world. Most brands are making an effort to make packaging sustainable or even to eliminate it. Lush, for example, offers 70% of its products without packaging.
Taking it a step further, In.gredients—a supermarket scheduled to soon open in Austin, Texas—is simply doing away with packaging, selling everything from meat to wine to produce to prepared foods by weight, package-free. The store will encourage its customers to bring their own containers, and will offer compostable containers for use in-store. Going to such extremes isn’t ideal for everyone, but the key to being truly innovative is to think freely and be willing to take a risk—if that risk meets your brand objective and marketing strategy.