Designing Beverage Packaging for Gen Z

Designing Beverage Packaging for Gen Z

Packaging design can make or break a beverage brand. The design of your packaging is the first thing that consumers will see and it’s up to the design to draw consumers in, create brand recognition and set your product apart from your competition.

Design trends are changing all the time, and with older Gen Zers entering the workforce and gaining purchasing power, packaging design is facing one of its largest shifts. This younger generation – the more than 70 million Americans born after 1997 and before 2012 – is environmentally conscious, drawn to creative and fun design and wants brands to engage with them in a way that has never been done with previous generations. Check out the top things to keep in mind when designing packaging for Gen Z below.

gen z

Fun, Creative, Inclusive

As Gen Zers enter the consumer pool, packaging design is trending away from minimalism and towards maximalism. Gen Zers look for products with attitude and personality. Kelsey Arnold, head of brand partnerships for Gen Z–focused media agency Kyra Media, said that defining Gen Z’s style preferences are “a little harder.” “They’re into bold expressions of style, but it really can be anything.”

Many brands seem to be leaning into bolder, brighter designs as they aim to capture the attention of Gen Z. Take for example the designs of 8th Wonder Tea and Poppi. These brands mix bright colors into a fresh design that feels young and fun.

According to the Pew Research Center, Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in US history. Gen Zers are progressive, and care about brands that represent their diversity and make inclusivity a top priority. One brand that’s combining a maximalist design with a message of inclusivity is RuPaul’s House of Love canned cocktail and mocktail beverage line. The design of these cans uses energetic colors, features a picture of RuPaul himself and contains messages encouraging love and kindness.

sustainable packaging

Sustainable Packaging

When thinking about designing packaging for the Gen Z consumer, sustainability should be top of mind. Jaye Mize, the vice president of creative strategy for consumer forecasting at Fashion Snoops, says “Gen Z is very sustainably oriented, they’re going to push every generation into being more sustainable in the way they shop and consume. Gen Z is going to expect a genuine commitment towards sustainability as the bare minimum. They’re going to be super hard on brands about where products come from and how they’re made.”

Sustainable packaging is trending within the beverage industry and as brands move towards more environmentally-friendly packaging, they’re steering away from using excessive materials and focusing on reducing overall packaging material.

In addition to turning towards using more recyclable materials for their packaging, companies are also looking to flexible packaging to reduce waste. Flexible packaging – such as pouches or bags – requires less energy and water to manufacture. This type of packaging also often uses ziploc-type seals so that consumers can reuse the packaging in the future.

Boxed Water Is Better was one of the first brands to make the shift away from plastic packaging back in 2009, and they’ve paved the way for younger brands to follow in their footsteps. And packaging isn’t the only way for brands to convey that sustainability is a priority. Brands such as Compound Coffee have made sustainability the central mission of their brand. Compound has created a beanless coffee that can be produced using environmentally friendly methods.

digital engagement

Engagement through the Digital World

Gen Z is the first generation to have lived their entire lives with the internet. They are digitally savvy and expect brands to be able to engage with them online. Gen Z practically lives on TikTok, and brands have taken notice – often engaging influencers to promote their products on the platform. CEO of beauty brand Youthforia, Fiona Cho Chan, says that she always keeps TikTok in mind when designing her product packaging. The colors and designs need to pop in video format as well on shelves.


Another engagement strategy brands are employing is augmented reality (AR). Take for example Coca Cola’s Starlight line that launched this month as part of their efforts to refresh their brand for the younger generation. The Starlight line was launched in partnership with pop singer Ava Max – and consumers can scan the QR code on the can for an AR experience of Ava Max performing three of her hit songs. Additionally, all of the content surrounding the new product line is hosted on a mobile app as well.

And Coca Cola’s not the only company using AR labels in their design. Jones Soda, a Seattle-based company, recently introduced new packaging that consumers can scan with their phone to see videos of social influencers, artists, musicians, and athletes who “embody the Jones aesthetic”.

In order to stay competitive in the market, beverage companies must continue to innovate and come up with new packaging design elements that engage and build trust with new Gen Z consumers.

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