If you could point out the “boogeyman” of the modern era, what would it be? Aside from COVID-19-which might take the title-it would probably be waste from plastics. With visions of sea turtles trapped by plastic rings and straws filling whales’ stomachs, consumers are turning their backs on the evils of plastic. Their attention has shifted toward more sustainable, environmentally friendly packaging options.
Sustainable packaging has been one of the fastest-growing trends in the packaging world. In fact, we expect the sustainable packaging market to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% through 2027. Many companies are now pledging to use 100% recycled packaging in the next few years.
Does Sustainable Packaging Increase Purchase Intent?
There is an important distinction to be made about what shoppers “think” they want, and what they actually bring to the point of purchase. Asking someone on the street differs from monitoring a potential customer as they navigate the store. Having a sustainable packaging design will have a differing effect based on the CPG category, customer demographic, and competitive landscape.
Keep this information in mind as we review the surveyed consumers asked about their level of interest and what they look for in a sustainable design.
With that PSA announcement, let’s now look at why there is a trend for consumers to refuse buying products in unsustainable packaging. What is it they want? Like any good hostage situation, here’s a detailed list of their demands, so you can keep up with the sustainability trend.
What Customers Want from Packaging
How do you learn what consumers want? The first step is to ask them! That is exactly what is being done in the packaging industry to establish the need and desire for sustainability in consumer packaged goods.
A recent study included consumers from ten countries. The study conductors asked how concerned they were about the environmental impact of product packaging. Approximately 55% of participants said they were extremely or very concerned with the packaging material or a product.
Consumers are definitely interested in sustainable packaging. Nearly 70% said they would pay more for a product in sustainable packaging, and around 35% said they would buy more sustainably packaged products if they could find them.
This means that producers who provide sustainable packaging solutions, even if they’re a bit more expensive, may capture a larger market share! Of course, we should test this data in a live shopping environment to see at what price and with what purchase drivers have the greatest impact on consumer intent.
Potential Purchase Drivers for Sustainable Packaging
Not all consumers understand and resonate with the same terms, even if they all lead to the same meaning. Choosing the right purchase drivers for your sustainable package design. Here are a few examples of terms that can help your product reach the point of being considered for purchase.
- Made from recycled material
- Reusable packaging
- Zero carbon waste
- Made from 100% sustainable material
- Zero plastic used in this product.
- Environmentally friendly packaging
- Made from recycled paper
How do you know which triggers create purchase intent? On-shelf product testing is the only way to remove subjectivity from the process. In a realistic environment, you learn the true nature of a consumer’s desire for purchasing products, such as those with recyclable packaging.
This removes the do good ideology that people “hope” is within themselves. Instead, it focuses on when push comes to shove, are they willing to make the switch and pay the higher price? So, as you drive to include a sustainable packaging option into your design strategy, don’t assume that your results will match the interest level found in these studies.
Factors that Impact Purchase Decisions
Agreeing with what we just discussed, although consumers clarified they prefer sustainable packaging, it might not be the most important factor for shoppers when making a purchase.
They asked the participants in the study about other factors, like price and ease of use. When ranking all the different factors, from most important to least important, the chart revealed some surprising conclusions. Here’s the ranking in order of importance:
- Hygiene and food safety
- Shelf life
- Ease of use
- Information on the label
- Environmental impact
As you can see, despite 55% of people being extremely or very concerned about environmental impact, this factor landed at the bottom of the list. That doesn’t mean it’s not an important factor for package design; it just means it’s not as important as the other factors in this setting.
In this study, 77% of participants put hygiene and food safety at the top of their list, 67% said shelf life, and 61% said ease of use. These ranked at a higher percentage than environmental impact. Interestingly, for many CPG products, you will find these potential purchase drivers on the back of the label, but is that where they belong?
Just because the environmental impact is bringing up the rear doesn’t mean it’s not important. Most of the other factors, like hygiene, appearance, and ease of use, may be current considerations in your overall packaging strategy. Upon testing, environmental impact may be the cherry on top of your already-exceptional package design. It’s what could separate your beautiful, safe, and easy-to-use packaging from a competitor’s beautiful, safe, and easy-to-use packaging.
How to Make Sustainable Packaging More Desirable to Consumers
Based on the factors that impact buying decisions, you can’t use only sustainable packaging and expect a surge in sales. The reality of a sustainable design is that you can’t make an ugly package that falls apart the minute someone touches it. It doesn’t matter if it’s made with sustainable products; nobody will buy a product if the packaging solution doesn’t look and perform well.
Even with environmentally friendly, sustainable packaging, you still need to make your packaging attractive, safe, easy to use, and you must implement the latest packaging design trends.
Besides using the best packaging designs, you must indicate in the most resonating way that your packaging materials come from sustainable resources. From the same study, 36% said they would buy more sustainably packaged products if they were better labeled but if communicated incorrectly, that number may drop to 0%.
Explore as many ideas as possible to show off your sustainable packaging materials! If you are making the investment and increasing your costs & retail price, then find a marketing angle to provide immediate conversions and future brand recall.
If consumers don’t know that they’re sustainable, it’s no different from the plastic packaging sitting next to it. Here are some ideas; put it in big letters, add a large sticker, or use earth-tones in your design to show off how “green” your packaging is. But always test this on-shelf against a true competitive landscape before concluding it is the right message for your product packaging.
Sustainable Packaging Trends for the Future
It’s clear that consumers want sustainable packaging, but in such an innovative landscape, which types of sustainable packaging do they prefer? According to the study, consumers don’t yet have strong, specific preferences about the type of sustainable packaging. As long as it is sustainable, then it is acceptable.
There are, however, a few trends that will likely affect the future of sustainable packaging:
- Consumers are as interested in fiber-based packaging as found in recycled and recyclable plastic. Consumers are satisfied as long as CPG companies make the products out of recycled materials, or the materials can be responsibly disposed of. Their preferences change based on the end use of the product. For example, plastic in any form is less desirable for beverages, but there’s a strong demand for recycled plastic for dairy products.
- If you still use plastic in your packaging, consumers want to see higher levels of recycled content. They also want recycling the plastic to be an option.
- Consumers expect more compostable packaging to enter the market soon.
Sustainable practices are the future of product packaging and at some point will become an expectation rather than an advantage. To capitalize on the marketability of this packaging option, you need to capture the right audience, at the right time, with the right message.
To keep up with the oncoming consumer demand, consider using biodegradable materials like cardboard, paper or recycled or recyclable plastic. If it’s good for the environment, it could be good for your sales numbers.
Implement Sustainable Materials into Your Packaging Strategy
Product packaging is a huge part of marketing, and the key to good marketing is appealing to consumer interests. There’s no doubt that people have become more mindful of our environment, and that includes product packaging.
The packaging market has been moving toward sustainability for years. Gone are the days of single-use plastic. Now, consumers are demanding fiber-based products and recycled materials as a more sustainable solution. If you want to give consumers what they want, perhaps it’s time to introduce sustainable materials into your strategy.
SmashBrand Package Design Testing Process
If you need help with your sustainable packaging strategy, talk to the experts at SmashBrand. We help get designs off the ground, provide CPG expertise, and implement proprietary packaging design testing methods to help products stand out on the shelves.
As your sustainable package design agency, we let the testing determine the need for a sustainable approach. Talk about your next project to see if eco-friendly packaging is the right move for your product; contact us today.