Canadian Plastics

Leaping into prosperity (with a bit of caution)

Canadian Plastics   

Last year, with the Great Recession in full groove, color suppliers predicted that most product hues would be soft, soothing and understated.Twelve months, and umpteen dubious economic forecasts, later? The recession may or may not be over,...

Last year, with the Great Recession in full groove, color suppliers predicted that most product hues would be soft, soothing and understated.

Twelve months, and umpteen dubious economic forecasts, later? The recession may or may not be over, but suppliers are already offering colors for brand owners designed to reflect a slow return of optimism — tempered by uncertainty — and a craving for authenticity. Throw in the ever-present environmentalism, too. The result? Expensive-looking silvers and bronzes, distressed effects, down-to-earth greens and mustards — and much more — are all coming your way.


“In 2010, we predicted people would be looking inward, attempting to create a private, secure world for themselves,” said Cristina Carrara, a ColorWorks designer for Clariant Masterbatches. “For 2011, however, we believe consumers will be tired of feeling insecure and ready to emerge with a more optimistic outlook.”


Two of the central colors for 2011, color analysts agree, will be blue and green, along with variations thereof. The two are constants for almost any product line, year in, year out, and both hit current hot-button feelings. “For most people, blue has natural associations with serenity and equilibrium, and these feelings are especially valuable today,” said Linda Carroll, color insight manager with Ampacet “Consumers are looking for grounding during the recession — they aren’t quite panicked, but they’re cautious — and blue will play into that.”

But don’t expect to see your grandfather’s flat, old-fashioned blue on the store shelves. “Blues have been getting much more complex recently, with depths and subtleties that weren’t available even a few years ago,” Carroll said. “Midnight blue expressed with various undertones is growing in popularity as the key replacement color for black in a lot of consumer goods packaging.”

Greens are expected to remain very popular as well, due to the obvious connection to all things environmental. But as the global environmental movement expands, so does the range of colors associated with it. “Any color that can be linked with recycling in the minds of consumers — such as earthy colors like russet and saffron — will be popular choices for brand owners in 2011,” said Doreen Becker, packaging market development manager for Americhem Incorporated. “Uniquely, it’s a development that has nothing to do with the recession, which is almost invariably a big determinant for most colors and shades this year.”

Just how important is the recession as an influence on color trends? “In the consumer goods world, colors don’t just reflect where consumers are right now, but also where they see themselves in the immediate future,” Becker said. “People want to start making money again, and colors associated with this will be hot picks in 2011: metal colors, silvers, brasses and bronzes, for example.”


Sounds simple, but there might just be a hidden contradiction in play: people want to feel successful, color forecasters say, but not phony. Triggered in large part by a subprime mortgage crisis that saw a dramatic rise in mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures, the recession reinforced a popular perception that first took hold during the Enron days: that shady dealings are the new normal. The backlash is filtering down into both beauty and consumer goods: today’s consumers want product brandings that seem authentic, not contrived.

“Contrivance, represented by a color such as gold, was a popular product look in an era of conspicuous consumption like the 1980s, but it’s a turn-off in many segments now,” said Linda Carroll. “Consumers feel manipulated enough in their daily lives; they don’t want product colors to reinforce that perception.”

Simply put, in cynical times like these, the flawed, warts-and-all look is in. “Distressed finishes as a sign of authenticity will be a real packaging driver in 2011,” Carroll continued. “Brand owners can attain that distressed look in product and packaging by using unique textural finishes and deliberate, imperfect blending of multiple colors.”

Grown-ups, it seems, aren’t the only ones searching for a little authenticity nowadays; believe it or not, children crave it too. “Children have been flooded with bright primary colors for generations, but today’s children are more sophisticated,” said Doreen Becker. “They want colors that speak to their intelligence and their reality: more somber, adult colors, such as mustards and earthy tones.”


Now that you know which colors and shades will be hot in 2011, the obvious follow-up question is: what’s not?

Pink, for one, in what amounts to a very large trending shift. “There was a tremendous amount of pink in beauty and consumer goods packaging last year, particularly from Asia, with the result that it’s been over-used,” Becker said. “Companies that use pink as a brand color will retain it, but otherwise it will be in decline. Americhem Incorporated is only offering one color theme that contains pink this year, for example, and only as an accent.”

Turquoise is expected to be another casualty. “Ampacet has had turquoise and teal variants in its color palette for the past few years, and it was in demand across the board, but we believe it will move out as a dominant trend color, with blue and green returning to separate identities,” said Linda Carroll.

Finally, orange seems to be trending out also, a victim of the by-now familiar scourge of over-commercialization — which would have been bad news to Frank Sinatra, who always claimed it as his favorite color.


Americhem Inc. (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio);; 1-800-228-3476

Ampacet Canada Co. (Kitchener, Ont.);; 800-265-6711

Clariant Masterbatches Division (Toronto);; 800-2653773


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