Impact of Packaging Sustainability on Consumer Behavior

by Heather

Impact of Packaging Sustainability on Consumer Behavior

What impact does your pack sustainability have on consumer behavior?

Well, we were wondering the same thing, and did some research with our Clean Label Enthusiasts™ community to find out how the sustainability of product packaging affects decision-making in the marketplace. 


Clean Label Enthusiasts™ Community

The reason we use this community to understand trends in the marketplace, is that the members have been shown to be on the front edge of trend-setting behavior. Clean Label Enthusiasts (CLE) are a behavioral segment, differentiated by their attitudes and avoidances of products with artificial ingredients and other additives that they believe are unhealthy. They tend to read ingredient labels and avoid brands due to these concerns. And their purchasing behavior around the topic of sustainability can show us insights needed for pack design.


Packaging Sustainability Impact Studies

In two waves, we first looked at the CLE study participants’ attitudes, motivations and behaviors related to food and beverage packaging, and the sustainability of that packaging. Secondly, we used our unique Implicit/Explicit Test™ to focus on perceptions of various types of food packaging (e.g., aluminum cans, glass jars, plastic coffee pods, and paper egg cartons).


Packaging Impact on Consumer Behavior: Part One

In the first wave of our study, nearly half (47%) of our Clean Label Enthusiasts™ participants said they were very concerned about the materials that comprise their food and beverage packaging. We also found purchase avoidance of packs when they were uncertain of what materials comprised the pack itself. And as far as impact on behavior, only 22% of the Clean Label study participants would purchase a food or beverage if it was sold in packaging that might not be sustainable or where they were uncertain about the materials used. Health safety perceptions of packaging also played a role in purchasing decisions. Another aspect we looked at was actual post-purchase  sustainable usage of the packaging—and found our CLE respondents were more likely than Non-CLE to reuse, recycle or compost packaging.  


Packaging Impact on Consumer Behavior: Part Two

This wave of our study looked at trade-offs for sustainable packaging and food quality and convenience. We found that food freshness is a must have and that consumers were not willing to trade away freshness for other packaging benefits like greater sustainability. The majority of study participants would choose less convenient packaging, plastic packaging and even non-recyclable/compostable packaging over packaging in which the contents might get stale or spoil.


Overall, we identified some areas to keep an eye on in this space. This includes: 

  • Sustainability and health concerns are the primary reasons identified for consumer acceptance and choice in terms of product packaging materials.  
  • Claims such as BPA Free and Made from Recycled Materials are strong in motivating choice.  
  • There is a willingness among consumers to pay more for and trade away convenience for recyclable/compostable packaging materials.  
  • There is also a willingness among consumers to pay more for plastic-free packaging.


Impact on Product Packaging Innovation 

So what are the takeaways here? When planning a new product launch or making modifications to a current product, the packaging is a big part of success in the marketplace and sustainability will play a role in that success. It is necessary to gather the right insights from your target market on this important aspect of product development to land in a place of greatest market success. By using innovative research approaches, like The Implicit/Explicit Test, or researching with communities, like our Clean Label Enthusiasts, you can get the answers you need to innovate your pack, and turn the dial toward a more sustainable world.