Sustainable packaging to become brand loyalty issue for Australians

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 6th July 2009

Sustainable packaging is a growing consumer issue that can no longer be ignored by manufacturers, a new report from independent market analyst Datamonitor has suggested.

At present, consumer interest in packaging is relatively low in general but, with a high proportion of consumers interested in the sustainability aspect of packaging, its impact on brand loyalty is set to soar.

“Sustainable packaging has the potential to become the new breakthrough consumer issue of its time, in the same way as organic food or fair-trade products a decade or so previously,” Matthew Adams, Consumer Analyst at Datamonitor and author of the report, claimed.

Consumers’ relationship with packaging in many ways is complex because few will admit to its importance because it is often taken for granted, but increasing consumer concern about ecological matters means packaging is an issue that is rising to prominence.

The results of Datamonitor’s consumer survey in the second half of 2008 showed that in Australia, 43% of consumers felt that packaging design has a medium or high level of influence over their choice of food and drink products. However, of this proportion, only 13% felt it exerted a very high level of influence on purchase.

The survey discovered that a high proportion of consumers in Australia feel that living an ethical or sustainable lifestyle is either important or very important to their wellbeing. In Australia, this was true for 86% of female respondents, with 77% of men feeling the same. Almost identical figures are attributed to the importance of protecting the environment for both men and women. High awareness of the social desirability to act in an ethical manner is a key reason for this high response option but sustainability is also a growing consumer concern.

“The higher importance of sustainability for women is in line with the general gender differences in the importance attached to many of the more intangible, ‘softer’ issues in life and consumerism,” Mr Adams said.

Despite the gender divide in importance attributed to ethical issues, one area where there is greater uniformity among men and women in relation to sustainable packaging is their reaction to products deemed to be packaged excessively.

“According to Datamonitor’s survey, almost half of Australian consumers (49% of women and 46% of men) will consider swapping brands if they deem one product to be excessively packaged compared to the alternatives,” Mr Adams advised. “This makes for startling reading for consumer brands if half of their customers could be lost due to sustainable packaging concerns”.

With this in mind, all consumer packaged goods companies must continue to evaluate their packaging in order to align themselves with an emerging consumer trend.

“Sustainable packaging need not only be seen as a worthy environmental issue but more so as a ‘win-win situation’ where consumers, producers and the environment all reap the benefits,” Mr Adams concluded.