Starpack Awards – 5 key learnings from a judge.

Posted by Chris Peach on the 10th July, 2019
As well as the feeling of pride that comes from Walnut being involved in the awards, being part of the judging panel and seeing the latest innovations helps you appreciate the technical challenges involved in packaging.

How we shop for products is undergoing massive change and add to this changes in public opinion around plastic and sustainability, where our work reveals 46% of people saying they are actively reducing their plastic usage, the packaging industry is facing a challenge to adapt and innovate to ensure brands remain relevant to consumers.

The Starpack Awards are now in their 60th year and aim to recognise and celebrate innovations in the UK’s packaging industry. For the past 5 years I’ve been honoured to be one of a handful of judges which review the submissions and agree on the worthy winners each year.

But what are these innovations? While each is unique, similarities among the winners are evident and below are 5 themes from among winners of the 2019 Starpack Awards.


Media attention from TV programmes like Blue Planet II has given plastic a bad name in recent years, and we’re talking to many brands wanting to change their pack to support their sustainability targets.

Using a mix of materials in a pack makes it difficult to recycle and so many are striving to switch to a pack made from just a single type of material. This seems to have coined a phrase ‘Recycle-Ready’ to indicate that it could be recycled.

Sadly we lack the infrastructure to collect and process certain materials at a cost that is commercially viable, meaning materials which could be recycled, still end up in landfill which is very disheartening. Will people become wise to this and let it influence their brand choice? Time will tell.


Compostable packs are not new, but the development of a biodegradable flexible pack (pouches for example) is a significant innovation. Two winners in the food and drink category saw the development of compostable packs – a pouch of Percol Coffee and Twin Farmers crisp packet – both of which can be dropped into your home composter to break down naturally.


Reducing the amount of material that is used to make the pack has been a recurring theme for a number of years. Less material, means lower costs to purchase those materials, and often leads to reduced transport costs (fuel savings).

Reducing the amount of materials risks reducing robustness, leading to packs being damaged in transit so it was great to see examples of packs being engineered to achieve greater robustness (more from less). The Best in Show and winner of the Green Star Award was is an aluminium tray that can be used in ‘ready to cook’ convenience products, offering a commercially attractive and environmentally efficient alternative to existing solutions.

E-Commerce packs

Worldwide some 1.9billion people are expected to buy goods or services online in 2019, up some 45% in the past 5 years according to statista. As we shift from buying products from traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ stores to online, so packs need to adapt to survive being delivered to your home.

Not only is increased robustness required, but also brands are increasingly wanting to see the product attractively presented when the pack is opened. The Starpack Awards have a whole category dedicated to home delivery and this year there were a number of worthy winners who succeeded in engineering packs which protected the product with minimal excess packaging, avoided undesirable plastic bubble wrap, were letterbox friendly, and yet still delivered an element of ‘theatre’ for the recipient when they opened the box.

Shelf ready packaging

Standing out in-store is vital for a brand’s pack and this year we saw a number of innovations that helped packs be presented on shelf as attractively as possible. Cartons filled with packs that protect during transit but can easily be converted to Floor Standing display Units, cartons which hold packs upright presenting a tidy appearance, or self-dispensing cartons which automatically push remaining packs to the front making them easy to see and grab even as the carton empties. Central to all of them is the use of just a single material (all recyclable board) – clever but effective design delivers the benefit for retailers, brands and consumers.

For details on all the winning innovations this year, the Winner’s guide can be found here.

As well as the feeling of pride that comes from Walnut being involved in the awards, being part of the judging panel and seeing the latest innovations helps you appreciate the technical challenges involved in packaging. This enables us to better help clients identify the consumer benefit and in turn drive growth for their brand. For a conversation about how research can help measure the impact of your packaging innovations, please do get in touch below.

Meet the Author: Chris Peach
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