This is timely insight for packaging professionals.

It’s no secret that the onset of COVID-19 accelerated the shift to e-commerce and created major supply chain challenges. RRD’s new study explores how brands are approaching packaging, coping with challenges, and pursuing adaptive opportunities to survive and succeed in an evolving marketplace.

The study, based on a survey of professionals with insight into the decision-making process for packaging, uncovers transformative realities in sustainability, supply chain, and online shopping.

Hand holding a grayscale apple while another is holding a paintbrush and painting the apple red

Report Vitals

What we did: Surveyed 300 U.S.-based, mid- to senior-level procurement, brand marketing, and packaging engineering professionals (across a variety of industries)

When we did it: April-May 2022

Why we did it: To provide insight for packaging professionals that informs strategy, priorities, and investments

What did we learn?

Like most business functions, packaging decisions are being made in a quickly evolving market. Virtually all respondents — 96% — agreed that overall operations (such as budgets, timelines, and sourcing) have been impacted by supply chain disruptions and inflation.

The results of this survey demonstrate how these dynamics have influenced product packaging, from reprioritized materials to supplier management strategies and online consumer needs.

Market disruptions don’t discriminate — you’re not alone in making tough decisions and changes to your packaging strategy.

5 Transformative Realities Across the Packaging Landscape



Supply chain disruptions cause concern almost evenly across key functional areas of packaging: product-related concerns were the top concern for 34%, packaging material-related concerns for 41%, and transportation-related concerns for 25%.

Expert take: “With material delays happening in virtually every industry, we’re working with more and more companies who have embraced a substrate-agnostic approach. This translates to improved availability for a wider variety of materials, which allows us to look at alternative stocks and production methods without losing momentum.”

Brian Techter

BRIAN TECHTER, SVP, RRD Packaging Solutions



65% have missed deadlines due to supply chain disruptions. 86% reported increased timelines for a typical project. 41% said projects took up to 4 weeks longer than usual, another 31% said they took up to 3 months longer than usual.


have missed deadlines due to supply chain disruptions



Material price hikes and supply shortages have presented the largest challenge over the past year, with 52% of respondents strongly impacted by material price increases, 46% by supply shortages, 37% by staffing challenges and 36% equally strongly impacted by increasing demand and speed to market requirements.

Strongly impacted Some what impacted Slightly impacted Did not impact at all

Expert take: Gaining production efficiencies in the face of today’s volatile market isn’t impossible. Structural engineering can uncover several opportunities, including designs that reduce a package’s footprint. The use of less material — or alternative, more-readily available options — also helps introduce new freight and storage savings.

Joe Schewe

JOE SCHEWE, Director of Structural Packaging Design & Engineering, RRD Packaging Solutions



E-commerce has increased over the past 1-2 years for over half (57%) of respondents. Of that, 92% have seen their organization increase packaging needs due to the increase in online orders.

This has caused a need for increased inventory, warehouse space, material substitutions, and staff.


have increased packaging needs due to online orders



Almost all (94%) agree that sustainability is a key consideration in packaging and label decisions. 66% of respondents said they have shifted to more sustainable packaging than what was used previously. Interestingly, 55% of respondents said recent supply chain disruptions moved their companies closer to their carbon emissions goals compared to further away.

Expert take: Brands continue to use less material and are turning to recycled materials — both of which are helping them move toward more sustainable packaging. Due to limited supply of virgin fiber, now is an excellent time to conduct a structural design engineering review. We often see this due diligence translates into material usage savings through the use of lighter weight paperboard materials as well as a smaller packaging footprint.

Lisa Pruett

LISA PRUETT, President, RRD Packaging Solutions

Reality Requires Willingness

There was a broad willingness to pivot to different packaging materials in light of recent industry challenges — over one third said they were extremely willing (36%).

And a majority of organizations (81%) did make changes to packaging design over the past 1-2 years.


made changes to packaging design

These challenges have forced organizations to reprioritize packaging materials (68%), reprioritize budget (52%), reprioritize packaging design and aesthetics (49%), and sustainability goals (45%).

9 out of 10 respondents indicated that recent disruptions to the global supply chain have caused their organization to change how packaging is sourced; including:

  • 62% that have moved to more diversification of suppliers
  • 42% who have outsourced manufacturing/fulfillment
  • 39% consolidated with fewer suppliers
  • 30% substituted specs
  • 26% reshored to the United States

Over the past 1-2 years, the majority of packaging decision-makers are planning ahead by 2-4 weeks.

Expert take: Material availability disruptions, labor shortages, and transportation challenges will impact supply chain timelines for the foreseeable future. Know that advance notice is a powerful tool. A greater focus on forecasting, contingency plans, early order placement and acceptance of longer lead-times, these are all things that can help ensure availability and protect against those late-in-the-game disruptions.

Lisa Pruett

LISA PRUETT, President, RRD Packaging Solutions

The top source of guidance or information on packaging is from suppliers/vendors or direct manufacturers, with 78% of respondents agreeing. Following that is industry associations or publications.

Are you reprioritizing your packaging investments?

If you’re ready to work with a trusted partner with packaging expertise, execution and scale, we can help.

Contact Us