The study, from market analysts Datamonitor, said while sustainable packaging is not yet the main reason for purchasing a product, it is becoming a “consumer expectation”. It is one of a growing number of issues – including ethics, economics and environmentalism- that is driving consumer choice, said report author Matthew Adams.
Economic imperatives, as well as possible greater regulation, mean that more brands need to consider adapting their present approach to accommodate sustainable packaging, he added.
Effects of recession
The research suggested that despite the numerous negative consequences of the global economic downturn, recession makes everybody – consumers included – more efficient and it is this necessity that can boost green behaviour and result in less waste.
The report, compiled in the second half of 2008, identified a major challenge for consumer packaging companies. While factors, such as soaring fuel costs have forced them to question their practices and seek ways to cut packing, they must “continue to protect products throughout their lifecycle and make credible adjustments to packaging that benefit all”.
The review, entitled Sustainable Packaging Trends: Consumer Perspectives and Product Opportunities, surveyed 15 countries across Europe, Asia Pacific, the US and South America. It stated that: “Few consumers will admit to the influence that packaging has on their decision-making process, as it is often taken for granted. However, increasing consumer concern about ecological matters means that packaging is an issue that is rising to prominence.”
When asked about the influence of packaging design on food, drink and alcoholic beverages, an average of only six per cent said it exerted a “very high amount of influence” – with India registering the highest return of 29 per cent.
However, 51 per cent of all those surveyed said it was of either of “medium” or “high” concern - with the US average falling below this at 43 per cent. In China, this combined total was 70 per cent, the highest of all countries, closely followed by South Korea on 68 per cent. Levels in Europe were generally lower with French consumers topping the list at 61 per cent while the UK came bottom with 37 per cent.
The research said the most potent weapon consumers can use to exact change in packaging is to boycott products. The report looked at how many consumers claimed to have altered purchasing patterns in response to packaging concerns. On average, 48 per cent of respondents said they would seek alternative products if they thought their first choice contained excessive packing. South Korea and China once again expressed the strongest intentions with 69 per cent and 68 per cent respectively. Some 40 per cent of UK respondents agreed, a slightly higher proportion than in the US, but lower than other European countries such as France, Spain and Sweden. In the Netherlands, consumers are less likely to boycott products than in the UK.
Emerging consumer trend
“With this in mind, all consumer packaged goods companies should continue to evaluate their packaging in order to align themselves with an emerging consumer trend”, said Datamonitor.
“Sustainable packaging would not only benefit the environment but also manufacturers and consumers. Updating packaging can also be a more credible way to make cost savings than using methods such as ‘package shrink’ or more accurately ‘portion shrink’, where a smaller amount of the product is sold at the same price.”