08 December 2019 Business

Consumers prefer packaging with sustainable edge

Consumers on either side of the Atlantic will, given the choice, choose products that are packaged in cartons.

Consumers are willing to pay more for products that are packaged in sustainable materials, according to surveys of German and American consumers.

According to the 2019 Paper & Packaging Consumer Trends Report from Asia Pulp & Paper, 53% of Americans claim that environmental sustainability is a driving factor when making any kind of purchasing decision, while 61% would be prepared to pay more for food products packed in sustainable materials. One in three reckon that they would pay 10% more for this.

This ties in with findings by a store in Norway which charged more for fruit packed in cardboard punnets rather than plastic, more than offsetting the additional cost of the carton version.

And for Americans, the appeal of sustainability is important in retail goods (48%), office goods (47%) and luxury goods (44%). They look to these brands to provide more sustainable products, or else will switch to brands that place a high value on sustainability as consumers increasingly adopt more sustainable lifestyles.

For Americans – and 93% of those questioned believe that they are doing their part – recycling is practiced by 72% with 45% limiting their use of single use plastics, including cutlery and single use straws. They want more opportunities to recycle and compost waste, believing this to be something that restaurants and retailers should provide, or failing that, something that local authorities should offer.

Unsurprisingly it is the millennial generation that shows the greatest awareness of sustainability issues and state the greatest willingness to pay a premium for products presented in this way. Likewise, this generation is more likely to be aware of neighbourhood composting options. However, the baby boomer generation is more likely to engage in recycling activities.

The older generations are less likely to take personal responsibility for changing behaviour, placing the onus on business ahead of government organisations.

The findings in the US are largely mirrored by research carried out for ProCarton and the German fibre board packaging association, looking at the correlation between organic products and cardboard packaging.

Unsurprisingly, the use of carton board as a sustainable material underlines the organic message across a range of nine product types. In many cases it will help differentiate one product from another that is wrapped in plastic, for example. Board is also perceived as conveying greater product quality than plastic packaging.

The German research confirms earlier work that finds that consumers perceive the packaging and the product as a single entity, while shelf impact is a more important influencer than broadcast or press advertising. The packaging remains an important endorsement of the credibility of a product, even when delivered by courier following an online purchase.

The 1,200 German consumers were asked to select between organic and non organic versions of the same produce, both presented in carton and plastic packaging. Coffee, tissues, tshirts, muesli, chocolate, pasta, soap, frozen vegetables, pet food and biscuits were assessed. Some are typically found in carton, others in some kind of plastic.

Using these, the consumers indicated a preference for carton packaging in seven categories which are considered more sustainable, except for use in chocolate packaging. The effect was more marked when packing the organic version of the product. It is the marriage of sustainability on the form of the fibre based packaging and the low eco impact of the product itself. If consumers want a sustainable product, they want the environmental message to be carried through to the packaging.

By Gareth Ward

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Sustainability in packaging is becoming more important to consumers and will frequently make a difference when consumers are faced with an either/or choice in the supermarket. This favours carton board packaging.

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