Two major studies on packaging have reached similar conclusions: the future for packaging as regards to brands and consumers, is about recyclability and sustainability. And that emphasises renewable wood fibres rather than plastics.
Smurfit Kappa joined forces with the Financial Times in January to survey 1,500 consumers and 200 business leaders about attitudes towards packaging. Its report “Sustainability reshapes the business landscape for good” finds that for 72% of companies, sustainability has become a lasting trend and 83% of business believe it to be an opportunity they can exploit.
Sustainability is both essential to R&D (27%) and for new product development (33%). It is a long term investment, not to be considered a cost (62%). However, companies admit to not always understanding what this means, perhaps providing an opportunity for print companies (Smurfit Kappa included) to step in with help and advice. According to the report, 42% of businesses have difficulty in quantifying sustainability and 41% have trouble identifying sustainable solutions.
Once they do, the evidence is there that consumers want to buy with sustainability in mind, 42% saying that they often buy a product because it has reusable packaging and a further 13% say that they have done this on more than one occasion.
The same core trends are identifiable in the Two Sides European Packaging Preferences report. Two Sides commissioned Toluna to question 1,000 consumers in the UK, and a total of 5,900 across nine counties in Europe about attitudes towards packaging.
It found that paper and cardboard packaging is associated with recyclability with 62% rating it “better for the environment”. Two thirds want products ordered online to be delivered in fibre based packaging rather than plastic, with 73% wanting the packaging to match the format of the product shipped rather than be oversized.
Two Sides asked consumers to make comparisons between paper and board, glass, metal and plastic as packaging materials. In almost every category, paper and board came top: for recyclability, lighter weight, cost, better for the environment, recyclability, ease of storage, practicality, conveying product information and both safety and ease of use.
Glass was considered the best material for reusability, best for protection, brand image and look and feel, while metal is considered the strongest packaging material. Plastic came top in none of the categories.
Unsurprisingly 70% of consumers agreed that “I am actively taking steps to reduce my use of plastic packaging” leading to 46% saying they were buying more from supermarkets that were removing plastic from their packaging. In the UK, Waitrose ranked top ahead of Sainsburys followed by Tesco and Morrisons. However, no retailer scored more than 3.5 out of a possible 5 point total. There is more to do particularly around awareness of recycling, its impact and value.
Jonathan Tame, managing director of Two Sides, says: “Packaging was placed firmly on the agenda for consumers after thought provoking documentaries, such as David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2, which demonstrated the impact our waste is having on the natural environment. Our survey shows consumers around Europe recognise paper-based packaging’s environmental qualities.”
Consumers are becoming aware of the advantages that carton and corrugated boards deliver in terms of sustainability, say reports from Smurfit Kappa and Two Sides.