More Packaging Coverage
In response to consumer concerns about the environment, suppliers and retailers are adopting more earth-friendly packaging options. According to research from global management consulting company McKinsey & Co., 43% of consumers believe that environmental impact is an extremely or very important packaging characteristic when making purchasing decisions, so the move to sustainable packaging makes sense.
First, though, it may be helpful to define the term, “as there are many different ways to be ‘sustainable,’” observes packaging business expert David Marinac. “Using less packaging; using a different type of material, such as biodegradable or 100% recyclable; and the most common attempt — companies using ‘refills,’ [meaning they] sell a rigid container once, and then sell refills using flexible packaging.”
[Read more: "How Consumers Are Driving Packaging Changes"]
In regard to that last solution type, “We’re seeing a lot of brands giving thought to how packaging can be designed to be reused, repurposed or even made into a collectable item, so it stays in someone’s home,” notes Michael Duffy, global creative director at Equator Design, a global packaging design agency with its headquarters in the U.K. city of Manchester.
An example Duffy gives is that of West Palm Beach, Fla.-based ASR Group, which “reduced the use of plastic in their Easy Baking Tub by 28% for their Domino Sugar and C&H Sugar brands by moving from a round to a square package. The tub is recyclable and reusable, so shoppers are encouraged to refill the package once it’s empty, using the Domino Sugar or C&H Sugar sold in bags. As well as adding the How2Recycle label to the pack, ASR Group are collaborating with influencers and using social media to get the word out about the containers’ reusability.”
Duffy also sees the potential for retailers to tout their eco-friendly bona fides through packaging. “At a store level, retailers can make use of creative POS displays to ensure their sustainability credentials are conveyed effectively,” he suggests. “Point of sale can be one of the most valuable touchpoints for communicating values, and shoppers are looking for retailers that share theirs. It’s all about increasing visibility. Or, like ASR Group, they could engage in social media campaigns and influencer marketing to get sustainability messaging out there. Creating product transparency and traceability is also important, and packaging can be used to convey this.”
“Overall, consumers are looking for more sustainable options at the shelf,” affirms Alexis Guetzlaff, director of marketing-food and NAB, AMN at Perrysburg, Ill.-based Owens-Illinois (O-I), a glass container manufacturing company. “This might be anything from looking for ingredients that are grown responsibly to packaging with lower negative impact on the environment.”
Not surprisingly, O-I recommends glass as an optimal packaging solution in this regard. Guetzlaff points out that it’s “made from natural ingredients — including recycled glass — and infinitely recyclable. With this strong sustainability story, glass is a great substrate choice for products that would like to show up sustainably at the shelf.”
One interesting packaging trend that Michael Duffy, global creative director at Equator Design, a global packaging design agency with its headquarters in the U.K. city of Manchester, has noted is the increasing use of QR codes.
“Brands are increasingly taking it upon themselves to educate and assist customers on how to properly dispose of packaging,” observes Duffy. “The use of labels and symbols is growing, creating an increasingly noisy landscape and potentially confusing people, so the best approach for brands is to provide actionable end-of-use information via a QR code with a clear call to action alongside it. … [I]n the U.S., there is a vast array of labels, consisting of a mix of third-party and brand-/retailer-owned initiatives, perhaps owing to a lack of regulation, which leads to ambivalence and confusion. It’s far more convenient to use a clear instruction next to an easily scannable code.”
Going forward, he believes that “QR codes are likely to feature not just on front of packs, but also within the pack itself, allowing brands/retailers to tap into local programs, including disposal information that is accurate for all consumer demographics.”
For his part, packaging business expert David Marinac points out that “QR codes can not only be personalized (with a personalized message or story of why the product is so great), but more important, [they] can have important details about the date of manufacture, the lot number, who the operator was that made it, etc. — all critical details for food safety and retail compliance.”