Sustainability stands tall despite market pressures and competing priorities.

Research from RRD reveals how brands navigated last year’s market pressures and shortages to ease certain supply chain challenges and meet eCommerce demands.

The second edition of our annual (Un)Packaging Reality Report now includes complementary input from label decision makers, in addition to the original audience of packaging decision makers. Here are four key takeaways:

  • Supply chains and market conditions show stability despite challenges
  • eCommerce growth continues to fuel demand for packaging and labels
  • Sustainability is a priority with continued advancement in near future
  • Market pressures prompt changes to labels, but change isn’t easy

View up from inside a box at an excited woman looking at what's inside

The unpackaging reality report

RRD highlights the impact of continued eCommerce growth with a special infographic

View here

Report Vitals

What we did: Surveyed 300 procurement, brand marketing, and packaging and labels engineering decision makers located in the U.S across a variety of industry sectors

When we did it: Spring 2023

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

The unpackaging reality report

See and share the full report.


Report highlights

1. Supply chains and market conditions show stability despite challenges

In 2022, packaging and label decision-makers began to see some supply chain and market conditions stabilize. In addition to easing concerns around product, packaging materials, and transportation, there were other signs of improvement in market dynamics. Concerns settled around staffing challenges, demands on capacity, and speed to market compared to last year’s study.

However, supply chain conditions — compounded by other market pressures — still presented challenges. In 2023, the vast majority of packaging and label decision-makers still reported:


stated disruptions to the global supply chain caused their organization to change how they source packaging and/or labels.


felt the pressure to make changes to packaging selections over the past year. This included altering designs for efficiency and cost reductions in transportation.

Expert take: Inflation, material availability, consumer expectations — product teams across the country are experiencing packaging-related pressures from all sides. As we work with clients to navigate these pressures, we’re seeing a greater willingness to consider all available options.

These options are often revealed when businesses work closely with their packaging suppliers to explore alternative materials and design modifications. Having that open mind to talk through new or different approaches with a trusted supplier can more than meet an immediate need. It can be a catalyst for true innovation.

Lisa Pruett

LISA PRUETT, President, RRD Packaging & Labels Solutions

2. eCommerce growth continues to fuel demand for packaging and labels

The number of respondents seeing increased eCommerce orders was up slightly from last year’s report. The majority of packaging and labels decision makers had to adapt their selections to meet these needs.


changed materials based on availability for packaging.


developed eCommerce-specific package design/structure.


boosted support from external vendors.

Expert take: More than half of the organizations we surveyed for this year’s report are experiencing a rise in eCommerce orders — following a similar pattern in 2022. If a large volume of your product is going the eCommerce route, then why not design a package specific for that channel?

It used to be you’d drop a retail package in a brown box and off it goes. That no longer has to be the case. From both sustainability and customer experience standpoints, the ship-in-own-container (SIOC) concept is something we consider as a better path forward.

Not only does it create a huge opportunity to reduce waste, it brings the unboxing experience back into focus through elements that protect the product and reinforce your brand.

Brian Techter

BRIAN TECHTER, SVP, RRD Packaging & Labels Solutions

Ready to download RRD's 2023 (Un)Packaging Reality Report?


3. Sustainability, a priority with continued advancement in near future

Decision makers continue to agree that sustainability is a key consideration in packaging and label decisions. Despite the challenging macro environment, more than three-quarters of respondents claimed they moved at least slightly closer to their organization’s sustainability goals.

Top sustainability-led selections in packaging:


report they are likely to make sustainability-led changes to current packaging in the next two-to-five years.

Expert take: From a packaging design standpoint, the question continues to be: How can we produce something more sustainable without negatively impacting its performance, branding, and manufacturability?

When you look at your packaging, are there pieces that can be removed? Can the size be reduced? Can you lower the weight of the material?

Consider losing just 5-10% of material weight in the package — now extrapolate that across an entire truck load of both incoming and outgoing material. The impact could quickly become significant and positive.

Joe Schewe

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

4. Market pressures prompt changes to labels, but change isn’t easy

Compared to packaging, slightly fewer respondents (66%) said they were forced to make changes to existing label selections over the past year due to market pressures. The most widely reported changes included: selections to minimize costs, the inclusion of more sustainable materials, and making efforts to improve readability.

Additionally, label decision makers met challenges in sourcing what they needed.


saw increased label needs also struggled to find labels that met standards for cost efficiency.


changed materials based on availability for labels.

Expert take: Market pressures have spurred many of the changes we’ve seen — and facilitated — to existing label selections over the past year. Whether challenged by availability, sustainability, costs, or all of the above, the idea of pivoting to a new label type or design might seem daunting, but it can also tap into new levels of efficiency.

For example, we’re currently working with a client in the food service space who is trialing a linerless prime label in a number of their restaurants. Its impact has been instantaneous.

With twice as many labels per roll, fewer cores and cartons, they’re now benefitting from reduced shipping and storage costs, fewer change outs, and a drop in material waste. This is an impressive addition by subtraction.

Andrew Palmer

ANDREW PALMER, Director of Sales, RRD Labels & Forms

Gain access to the full report.

Additional findings? Expert insights? Have it all. Receive your free copy of RRD’s 2023 (Un)Packaging Reality Report.

Fill out our short form for immediate access.

Contact Us