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Sustainable packaging trend gathering pace

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6 July 2009 | Published by Datamonitor

London. A new report* from independent market analyst Datamonitor identifies sustainable packaging as a growing consumer issue, revealing that, although sustainable packaging is not yet a primary motivator of purchases, it is becoming a consumer expectation. Sustainable packaging is one of a growing number of issues driven by ethics, economics and environmentalism. Economic imperatives, as well as possible greater regulation, mean that more brands need to consider adapting their present approach to accommodate sustainable packaging, comments Matthew Adams, consumer analyst at Datamonitor and author of the report.

Although it is universally recognized that the global economic recession is having a negative impact on countries and individuals, it may result in some consumers changing their lifestyles for the better. While recession means that consumers often have to act in a more self-serving manner, for instance buying fewer Fairtrade groceries, many of the recession-inspired consumer behaviors could be said to be beneficial for the environment.

Recession makes everyone act more efficiently and, as fewer purchases are made, there is potentially less waste. Rising fuel costs have also made numerous consumer packaged goods companies question their current practices and seek cost savings by reducing packaging in order to cut the amount of weight that is transported from factory, to shop, to end consumer. However, producers must continue to protect products throughout their lifecycle, while making credible adjustments to packaging that benefit all.

The results of Datamonitor’s consumer survey in the second half of 2008 show that, in the UK, 39% of consumers feel that packaging design has a medium or high level of influence over their choice of food and drink products. However, of this proportion, only 9% felt that it exerted a high level of influence on their purchases. Few consumers will admit to the influence that packaging has on their decision-making process, as it is often taken for granted. However, increasing consumer concern about ecological matters means that packaging is an issue that is rising to prominence.

Table 1:           Consumer survey: stated influence of packaging design on food & drink and alcoholic beverage purchases, in 15 countries across Europe, Asia Pacific, South America and the US, by country, 2008
Medium amount of influence
High amount of influence
Very high amount of influence
France
41%
20%
6%
Germany
33%
7%
2%
Italy
35%
12%
3%
Netherlands
34%
8%
1%
Spain
47%
11%
5%
Sweden
37%
9%
5%
UK
30%
7%
2%
US
32%
11%
6%
Australia
30%
10%
3%
Brazil
37%
19%
10%
China
45%
25%
8%
India
26%
33%
29%
Japan
39%
10%
0%
Russia
41%
16%
8%
South Korea
46%
22%
4%
Overall
37%
14%
6%
Source: Datamonitor Consumer Survey, August 2008
D A T A M O N I T O R
Of the 15 countries surveyed by Datamonitor, the UK had the greatest proportion of survey respondents showing high levels of concern about the packaging of products in the household goods market. Of course this does not necessarily mean that UK consumers are the most ecologically minded—it could be that household goods in the UK are packaged less efficiently than in other countries (or that consumers believe this to be the case), or that media influence is driving these concerns. Regardless, this is a threat to unresponsive producers in the household goods market: consumers may react to continued excessive packaging with their own proactive, pre-emptive methods.

Table 2:           Consumer survey: stated concern about over-packaging in household goods categories, in 15 countries across Europe, Asia Pacific, South America and the US, by country, 2008
Somewhat concerned
Extremely concerned
Total concerned
France
32%
18%
50%
Germany
23%
9%
32%
Italy
29%
9%
38%
Netherlands
33%
10%
43%
Spain
32%
21%
52%
Sweden
38%
12%
51%
UK
43%
17%
60%
US
25%
9%
34%
Australia
38%
14%
52%
Brazil
15%
12%
27%
China
47%
9%
56%
India
31%
21%
53%
Japan
35%
5%
40%
Russia
20%
7%
27%
South Korea
33%
6%
39%
Overall
32%
12%
44%
Source: Datamonitor Consumer Survey, August 2008
D A T A M O N I T O R
One of the most obvious methods that consumers can use to bring about change is to boycott products that do not meet their requirements or expectations. With this in mind, in 2008 Datamonitor surveyed consumers from around the world to see how many claim to have changed their buying behavior due to concerns about excessive packaging. In 2008, 40% of UK respondents agreed that they seek alternative products if they believe their first choice to be packaged excessively. This is a slightly higher proportion than in the US, but lags behind other European countries such as France, Spain and Sweden. In the Netherlands, consumers are less likely to boycott products than in the UK.

Table 3:           Consumer survey: extent of seeking alternative products due to perceived excessive packaging, in 15 countries across Europe, Asia Pacific, South America and the US, by country, 2008
Tend to agree
Strongly agree
Total agree
France
36%
16%
51%
Germany
30%
15%
45%
Italy
32%
14%
46%
Netherlands
23%
10%
33%
Spain
35%
16%
51%
Sweden
37%
10%
47%
UK
28%
12%
40%
US
24%
11%
35%
Australia
34%
13%
48%
Brazil
32%
21%
54%
China
49%
19%
68%
India
40%
27%
67%
Japan
30%
7%
37%
Russia
29%
12%
40%
South Korea
50%
19%
69%
Overall
34%
15%
48%
Source: Datamonitor Consumer Survey, August 2008
D A T A M O N I T O R
With this in mind, all consumer packaged goods companies should continue to evaluate their packaging in order to align themselves with an emerging consumer trend. Sustainable packaging would not only benefit the environment but also manufacturers and consumers. Updating packaging can also be a more credible way to make cost savings than using methods such as ‘package shrink’ or more accurately ‘portion shrink’, where a smaller amount of the product is sold at the same price.

- Ends -

Notes to editors
Notes & References

*Datamonitor's report "Sustainable Packaging Trends: Consumer Perspectives and Product Opportunities" was published in April 2009.

Further Information

Matthew Adams, consumer market analyst and author of the study, is available for comment.

More information is available from the Datamonitor Group Media Team. Please contact Marie-Ange Nouroumby on +44 20 7675 7302 or mnouroumby@datamonitor.com.

About Datamonitor

Datamonitor is a leading provider of online database and analysis services for key industry sectors. We help our clients, 5000 of the world's leading companies, to address complex strategic issues. Through our proprietary databases and wealth of expertise, we provide clients with unbiased expert analysis and in-depth forecasts for seven industry sectors: Automotive, Consumer Packaged Goods, Energy, Financial Services, Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare, Technology, Transport and Logistics.