New research confirms that consumers are becoming more switched on to issues of environmental sustainability. This has greatly affected the food and drink industry, where issues of supply chain waste, unnecessary packaging and unsustainable practices have become contentious topics.
It is also becoming apparent that growing consumer awareness is being translated into industry action. For example, the market for natural packaging is rapidly expanding as manufacturers race to meet growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly products.
In the study conducted by Grapentine Company, 59 per cent of European consumers ranked the concept of purchasing fresh food in nature-based packaging as 'very desirable', which relates closely with consumers' likelihood to purchase. Roughly 72 per cent of those rating the concept as 'very desirable' said they would pay 10 euro cents more for fresh foods packaged in nature-based packaging. Sixty-seven per cent were willing to spend an extra 20 euro cents per food item.
"Consumers want to take wholesome, fresh meals home to their families, but food is becoming only part of the equation," said Cargill Dow business development manager Stefano Cavallo. "We believe consumers also want to take food home in packaging that contributes to their families' wholesome food experience."
Completed in August 2003, the survey asked more than 2,400 consumers in Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom about a number of trends in the grocery retail industry. Respondents had purchased a delicatessen item from their local grocery retailer within the past 60 days and were their household's primary grocery shopper.
Shoppers at Italian hypermarket chain IPER have been buying fresh pasta, produce and bread in NatureWorks' maize-based packaging for approximately two years. Positive consumer interest and strong sales over the past year have encouraged the retailer to recently expand the use of the new packaging to a wider variety of foods, including produce and deli meats.
Italy's leading organic pasta manufacturer, Biorigin, recently began packaging its fresh pasta products in clear containers and film made from the maize-based material.
"The positive customer response demonstrates a sustainable and growing consumer market for nature-based packaging," said Cavallo. "Environmentally responsible consumers are leading the trend toward fresh food in nature-based packaging and are showing the willingness to support their convictions at the checkout."Made from maize, NatureWorks claims that its packaging offers all of the convenience of traditional plastic packaging while helping reduce environmental impact. Packaging made from NatureWorks is 100 per cent nature-based and will degrade in industrial compost facilities, where available.
The Grapentine survey shows that European consumers are aware of the need to behave more responsibly. It remains to be seen however whether good intentions are followed up consistently with action.