Environment Trumps Convenience for Many Consumers

Research from The Nielsen Company in Schaumburg, Ill. shows that more than half of U.S. consumers say they would give up all forms of packaging provided for convenience purposes if it would benefit the environment. 

This includes packaging designed for easy stacking/storing at home (58 percent); packaging that can be used for cooking, or doubling as a resealable container (55 percent); and packaging designed for easy transport (53 percent).

At the other end of the scale, Nielsen finds U.S. consumers are least willing to give up packaging designed to keep products clean and untouched by other shoppers (26 percent), packaging designed to keep products in good condition (31 percent), packaging that preserves products to make them last longer and stay fresher (31 percent), and packaging information, including food labeling, cooking, and usage instructions (33 percent).

One in 10 U.S. consumers, however, isn't prepared to give up any aspect of packaging for the benefit of the environment.

"Consumers worldwide are demanding more action from retailers and consumer packaged goods manufacturers to protect the environment," says Shuchi Sethi, v.p., Nielsen Customized Research. "While eco-friendly packaging might not be the top priority for shoppers today, it's certainly a growing priority the food industry cannot ignore."

In eco-conscious countries, Nielsen's "packs@work" studies reveal consumer preference for packaging that's recyclable, biodegradable, and safe for disposal, using materials such as paper, cardboard and/or glass rather than plastic and polystyrene. Glass packaging, for example, is considered to be hygienic, inert, recyclable, tamper-proof, and potentially able to extend product life.

"We are starting to see some backlash against plastics that are not recyclable, or whose chemical composition may lead to tainting or degradation of product quality," says Sethi.

Additional findings, according to Nielsen's "PanelViews" study of 65,000 U.S. households:

More than half of U.S. consumers claim to recycle cans, bottles, and/or newspapers all the time, with 20 percent doing so "most of the time."

Roughly 40 percent of consumers will sometimes think to look for products with less packaging.

Nearly 80 percent of consumers make a point of combining shopping trips to save gas most, if not all, of the time.

Sixty percent of consumers buy used or refurbished products to reduce waste and materials consumption at least some of the time.

Nearly 60 percent make an effort to buy fruits and vegetables at a local farmers' market.

Approximately two-thirds turn down their thermostats to conserve fuel most or all of the time.
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