Environmental Impact. More than half of U.S. consumers are highly concerned about the environmental impact of packaging, according to a 2020 study from McKinsey & Company. Their concerns are spread nearly equally among multiple factors, such as water pollution, climate change, marine litter, deforestation, air pollution and waste production.
A 2020 global survey by Boston Consulting Group found that 59% of consumers are less likely to buy products in packaging that is harmful to the environment. Moreover, 47% won’t purchase products in harmful packaging.
Material Preferences. About 57–60% of consumers rank glass, paperboard and paper as extremely or very sustainable while 53–57% view plastics (i.e., compostable plastic films or fully recyclable plastic films and bottles) as extremely or very sustainable, notes McKinsey. Interestingly, metal containers rank lower at 48%. Ranked lowest by the study participants, aluminum foil and laminated packaging are rated as extremely or very sustainable by only 37% and 32% of U.S. consumers, respectively.
The COVID-19 pandemic heightened consumer desires for hygiene and food safety. Consumers rank glass as the safest packaging material (33%) while others such as plastic, metal and paper rank lower at 22–26%. Aluminum foil and laminated packaging are seen as the least safe substrates.
Going forward, consumers want to see more recyclable and recycled plastic packaging and fiber-based packaging. Consumers also want plastic film and rigid packaging to be recyclable or to include higher levels of recycled content. Plus, consumers expect to see more products in compostable packaging.
Paying for Sustainable Packaging. Across all end-use markets, about 60–70% of consumers said they would pay more for sustainable packaging, reports McKinsey. Furthermore, 52% of consumers said they would purchase more sustainable packaging if those products didn’t cost more than conventionally packaged goods. More than a third of survey respondents said they would purchase more sustainable packaging if it were available in more stores and for more products and were clearly labeled.
Nearly three out of four consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging, notes Boston Consulting. And 25% said they would pay an additional 10% or more.
Marketplace Benefits. Sustainability-positioned products are winning in the marketplace. From 2015 to 2019, sustainability-marketed products delivered about 55% of the market growth in consumer packaged goods (CPG) in the U.S. despite being only about 16% of the market, according to the 2020 Sustainable Market Share Index from the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business.
Sustainability-marketed goods grew 7.1 times faster than products not marketed as sustainable and 3.8 times faster than the CPG market, reports NYU Stern. Compared to their conventionally marketed counterparts, sustainability-touted brands possess a significant price premium of about 40%.
The biggest purchasers of sustainable products include upper income, millennials, college-educated and urban consumers. In addition, middle income, baby boomers and gen Xers contribute to sustainable sales. The Northeast U.S. has the greatest penchant for sustainable products. Per capita, the top 5 states for purchases of sustainability-marketed products are New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut.
Learn more about Sustainable Packaging from Berlin Packaging.