Consumer packaging design isn’t always quick to change. However, due to rapidly-rising environmental awareness, health food brands are being challenged to move quickly to ensure that their brands’ packaging meets consumer expectations of sustainability.
Why does sustainable packaging matter, and how can you make it an integral part of your packaging design process, considering the entire life cycle of that packaging?
Understanding the Health Food Market
The health food market is full of people who care about what they put into their body. They care about what they eat and what their family members eat. They also care about the environment around them, both for its intrinsic worth and also because a healthy environment leads to healthy people, animals, and plants.
Many companies say that they are sustainable, but only a few take the step of completely re-evaluating their practices and packaging to vastly reduce waste and the use of energy and materials. Those companies who do create sustainable food packaging gain the trust of consumers. They visibly walk the talk, putting in a clear effort to make sustainable packaging that follows the company’s values and consumer expectations.
Sustainable Packaging Explained
What is sustainable packaging? It is packaging that uses fewer resources to make, creates fewer carbon emissions, and makes less waste. At its best, it may even use up a waste product, reducing landfill contributions instead of creating them.
Why do we need to embrace this packaging? In grocery stores today, a lot of the packaging incorporates single-use plastics. While much of this plastic could be recycled, it is not. Worldwide, only 14 to 18 percent of plastic is recycled. Those single-use plastics end up as garbage in a landfill or incinerator, or they make it into wild spaces such as the Pacific Ocean’s Garbage Patch.
Sustainable packaging can incorporate many elements of sustainability that are part of the entire product life cycle. These include:
- Ethical sourcing of materials, such as pulp from well-managed forests
- Sourcing recycled or reused materials
- Low-carbon transportation methods
- Reducing packaging weight to reduce transportation emissions
- Reducing packaging materials
- Choosing reusable, recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable materials
Some of the sustainable packaging materials that companies use include:
- Recycled content that is also highly recyclable, such as aluminum, which is frequently recycled and can be recycled almost infinitely
- Plant-sourced packaging materials made from corn or mushrooms
- Packaging from food waste such as apple peels or avocado pits
- Compostable “plastic” products such as chitosan, which is made from shrimp
- Biodegradable products like recycled paper
Implementing sustainable packaging in your biggest design projects can transform your relationship with your consumers, giving them faith that you are a company that lives out your sustainable values in practice.
The Benefits of Sustainable Packaging
People love their food containers: they are used for takeout, shipping, and packaging food for grocery stores. Our love of packaged foods has led global production of items like plastics to rise exponentially since the development of plastics in the 1950s. Most food containers are single use, difficult to recycle, and contaminated by food waste. These food containers are mass-produced and often inexpensive.
While companies often worry about the cost of sustainable packaging, there are significant environmental and business benefits to adopting sustainable packaging practices.
What are some of the environmental benefits? By increasing the sustainability of their packaging, companies can reduce:
- The use of new materials that must be mined, logged, or grown
- The use of all materials by creating more minimalist packaging
- Production waste and disposal fees
- Water use in product production
- Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation
- Greenhouse gas emissions from production
- Post-consumer waste
What are some of the economic benefits?
- Reduce waste disposal fees
- Reduce taxes or fees related to environmental impact
- Reduce the cost of shipping packaging if you reduce the weight
- Improve consumer trust, leading to additional sales
- Refresh your brand image, leading to additional sales
- Become known for innovation, leading to organic promotion on social media
Sustainable food packaging enhances your brand image. By being transparent about your company’s intentions and your progress towards sustainable practices, this builds trust with your consumers, encouraging them to continue to purchase your product or choose it for the first time.
Case Study: Brands Excelling in Sustainable Packaging
Arekapak excels in natural packaging solutions. Their packaging is made from areca palm leaves, which require little water or energy to create. Their snack boxes can be reused as a plate, and the material is completely biodegradable. The material is also very durable, cold and heat-resistant, and water repellent. Arekapak has considered many different aspects of sustainability, from the source of its materials to their reusability and eventual compostability. Product packaging like this is the standard for the future.
Clif Bar is a brand that is honest and ambitious in its approach to sustainable packaging. It has made well-publicized commitments to sustainability, including a commitment to make all of its packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025. In the same year, a quarter of their packaging will be made from renewable or recyclable materials. They have also reduced the size of their wrapper and are working to minimize the footprint of their current wrappers.
PKG Brand Design’s Approach to Sustainable Packaging
At PKG Brand Design, we are committed to helping companies transform their health food packaging, making their consumer packaging design more sustainable. We build your packaging design around consumer needs, ensuring that our custom packaging designs provide consumers with convenience in opening, closing, reuse, and recycling. We can work with you to create packaging that is both eye-catching and lighter on the environment, using fewer materials, more ecologically friendly production processes, and compostable or more easily recyclable materials. We work with you to make sure that your packaging matches your brand message and consumer needs.
The Future of Sustainable Packaging
What does the future hold for sustainable packaging? There are many trends that will continue to shape packaging design:
- Circular packaging, creating a closed-loop system in which packaging materials are continually reused, recycled, or repurposed
- Reducing plastic waste through packaging reduction, alternative materials, and more efficient recycling processes
- Smart packaging that incorporates technology such as QR codes that provide recycling information
- Minimalist designs, simplifying packaging design to reduce waste and improve recyclability
When you are working within the health food market, having sustainable packaging is especially important. Your consumers want to ensure that you’re making healthy food and working towards a healthier environment at the same time. Choosing sustainable packaging design can reduce your environmental impact and ensure that your company is in tune with the ethics of your shoppers.
At PKG Brand Design, we create packaging that connects you and your consumers. Learn how to meet your customers’ packaging needs: Subscribe to our blog today.