“Sustainable packaging” is a growing conversation that has been in the primary and secondary packaging industry for a while now, but even more so in the past couple of years with growing commitments from big box stores like Walmart, food providers like McDonald's and Coca-Cola, and technology companies like Dell.
These companies are responding to consumer demand and increasing environmental regulations—and both will only increase shortly. According to a 2016 Research and Markets report, the global sustainable packaging market will reach about $440.3 billion by 2025.
So what does this mean for businesses that have not fully converted to sustainable packaging yet? It means that even though businesses may not have time to find the right packaging that meets company goals, environmental regulations, and consumer demands simultaneously, leaning toward sustainability is inevitable.
Here are a few key points to be aware of when thinking about choosing more sustainable packaging:
1. A common concern is that sustainable packaging will increase the price of the product, and companies try to avoid passing cost increases off onto the consumer. What is interesting is that these increases are not as much of a deterrent for consumers as long as they are getting the guilt-free trade-off.
Even if there is a slight increase, for now, many consumers are finding sustainable packaging is worth the additional cost, as it contributes to the entire consumer experience.
GlobalData’s report, “Innovation Scenarios in Sustainable Packaging Materials,” explains that their research has found that two-thirds of consumers worldwide think living an ethical or sustainable lifestyle is vital to creating a feeling of well-being.
Said another way, this means that your commitment to sustainable packaging now contributes to the strength of your brand and point of difference.
2. Because plastics are a petroleum-based product, as petroleum prices rise (partially in response to current US tariffs, partly due to the rise in sustainable products, and partially due to dwindling petroleum resources), so will the price of plastics.
According to the Australian Academy of Science, who is a large proponent of more sustainable packaging, they explain how “Conventional plastics are manufactured using petroleum, coal or gas—all non-renewal resources susceptible to a volatile market of rising cost and demand, coupled with dwindling reserves.”
Increases will then level the playing field for more sustainable packaging, which helps companies make more cost-effective and conscionable decisions. Not only will companies be on the right side of environmental history by committing to more sustainable packaging options, but they will also be on the right side of pricing--it’s a considerable PR boost while the consumer is watching.
3. Another element of packaging that consumers find imperative is aesthetics. In a 2015 Trending Packaging study, appearance was considered a critical factor in purchase decisions. Consumers look for packaging that has the following:
Appealing graphic design
Letter type and size (especially for an aging population)
Overall brightness of the package
Sustainability, especially with glass containers, reusable and re-sealable packaging, 100% recyclable packaging, and packages with endurance (such as wood).
In a University of South Carolina report, it was explained that researchers found consumers experienced attractive, renewable packaging as a reward.
Similarly, the neural mechanisms in the brain associated with the experience of reward showed increased activation when participants chose aesthetically pleasing and sustainable packaging.
As your business starts to consider the future of your packaging, keep in mind that there are ways to go green, satisfy business needs, keep consumers happy and guilt-free, and increase your brand appeal.