Like the rest of the business world this year, CPG packaging is in the throes of big change. Global consulting firm McKinsey tracked some of these evolutions in a new study of consumer attitudes about sustainability that will help guide the CPG packaging industry, possibly for years to come. Here’s what the study found and how it could impact your business.
COVID-19 and CPG Packaging Sustainability
We knew consumer attitudes toward sustainability have been changing, as more people became aware of plastics' negative environmental effects. For the past few years, we’ve seen shoppers make more deliberate choices about how and what they buy. But the biggest disrupter to consumer behavior this year has been, undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic.
What did McKinsey find out about these changes, and how will it affect the CPG packaging industry's future? The company gathered survey results from 10 countries and came up with some of the latest trends in packaging:
1. Price, quality, and brand are still important. One shift since the pandemic began has been that consumers now rank sustainability lower over price. They are also willing to pay more for a higher quality product. This trend makes sense; the COVID-19 crisis has furloughed and laid-off millions of people across the globe. The question is, when the economy bounces back, where will the importance of sustainability lie?
2. Despite this, the McKinsey survey still showed that more than half of U.S. consumers are still “highly concerned about the environmental impact of packaging in general.” While they may have less discretionary spending available to buy strictly related to these issues, they say that going forward they are very interested in selecting sustainable or recycled packaging whenever possible.
3. Consumers are also highly concerned with shelf-life, convenience, and food safety. 77% of the consumers surveyed said hygiene and the safety of food products were extremely or very important. In comparison, 55% said it was the environment and the use of sustainable packaging materials that ranked this high.
The Future of Sustainability in Packaging
What does this mean for sustainability in the future? McKinsey addresses this by encouraging CPG packaging companies to consider sustainable design in the future and concentrate on ways to highlight hygiene and food safety to meet consumer concerns both during and after the COVID-19 crisis. McKinsey found that the concerns for the environment range across several factors, including:
- Worries about marine litter
- Climate change
- Deforestation and natural resource depletion
- How packaging leaks into and has a long-term impact on the environment
McKinsey advises CPG packaging teams, “Since consumers don’t focus on any single area, companies acting on sustainability must address a broad range of concerns.” Companies that focus on glass, paperboard, and paper will do well in the future; consumers view these products as very sustainable. Further, up to 57% of consumers surveyed said that plastics are sustainable, of course, as long as they are recycled and reused.
McKinsey concluded that consumers are still willing to pay more for sustainable packaging, but they would buy more of these products if they were as affordable as conventionally packaged products.
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