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Nearly seven in 10 packaging decision makers forced to reprioritize amid supply chain disruption: RRD survey

June 22, 2022  By PrintAction Staff

A recent study by R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company (RRD) found the market’s most pressing challenges forced packaging decision makers to shift priorities and rethink operations, with 90 per cent changing how their packaging is sourced. The Unpackaging Reality Report explores how converging disruptive issues like supply chain volatility, inflation, labour shortages, and increasing sustainability pressures have impacted the industry.

Surveying 300 packaging decision makers in the U.S., RRD’s study found material price hikes and supply shortages presented the biggest hurdles for the industry over the past year, with over half of respondents reporting they have been strongly impacted. These challenges, among others, forced organizations to reprioritize packaging materials (68 per cent), budget (52 per cent), packaging design and esthetics (49 per cent), and sustainability goals (45 per cent). Despite the many challenges brought on by the pandemic and downstream issues, the report found that overall, the packaging industry proved resilient and continued to track toward a more sustainable and innovative future.

“There’s no disputing that rising costs, supply chain snares, and talent pinches have posed major challenges to the packaging industry, but that doesn’t mean this reality is all doom and gloom,” said Lisa Pruett, president, Packaging, Labels and Forms, Retail Solutions at RRD. “These challenges actually transformed the industry into a more innovative, agile, and environmentally conscious sector. Organizations responded with diverse strategies as there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to tempering disruptions.”

The study’s key findings underscore the packaging industry’s willingness to evolve operations in the face of challenges without losing sight of sustainability goals.

Supply chain challenges lead to innovation

To navigate the market challenges, organizations have been willing to explore a wide range of solutions to their supply chain issues. Specifically, 62 per cent diversified suppliers, 42 per cent outsourced manufacturing and fulfillment, 39 per cent consolidated suppliers, 30 per cent substituted specs, and 26 per cent reshored their manufacturing to the U.S. There is broad willingness to pivot to different packaging materials in light of supply chain sourcing challenges, with over one-third (36 per cent) saying they were extremely willing to use alternative materials. As for guidance and information, 78 per cent of respondents looked to suppliers, vendors, or direct manufacturers.

E-commerce ignites packaging demand

Packaging needs have skyrocketed in recent years, in part due to the acceleration of online shopping amid the pandemic, and this has created both strain and opportunity for the packaging industry. The majority of respondents (57 per cent) experienced an increase in e-commerce orders in the past one to two years and, for nearly all of them (92 per cent), this resulted in an increase in packaging needs.

Packaging professionals responded to the growth in e-commerce orders by increasing inventory (55 per cent), expanding warehousing (53 per cent), changing materials (52 per cent), and increasing staff (51 per cent).

Surprising strides in sustainability

Survey findings contradict the sentiment that sustainability initiatives fell to the back burner as companies grappled with other pressing priorities, with almost all respondents (94 per cent) agreeing that sustainability is a key consideration in packaging and label decisions. Further, two-thirds of packaging professionals shifted to more sustainable packaging than what they used previously. When considering sustainability, budget is the top influencing factor – more so than external regulations or consumer preferences – suggesting that cost-effective eco-friendly materials are in high demand.

Of note, the majority of packaging decision makers (55 per cent) believe recent supply chain disruptions moved their companies closer to their carbon emissions goals, suggesting sustainability initiatives may prove versatile and resilient.


RRD commissioned an online survey of 300 procurement, brand marketing, and packaging engineering decision makers to provide insights that inform strategy, priorities, and investments. Survey participants are located in the U.S. across a variety of industry sectors. The survey, conducted by FINN Partners in Spring 2022, is weighted to be nationally representative.

To read the full report, visit:

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