Do consumers care about sustainable snack packaging?

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Are consumers swayed by green packaging in their shopping choices?
Are consumers swayed by green packaging in their shopping choices?

Related tags Brand owners Sustainable snack packaging Recycling

Sustainable snack packaging may be on the top brand owners’ agendas, but do consumers appreciate the efforts and how do these green materials affect their snacking experience?

“I believe there’s always been a demand because there is a big concern about the environment,”​ Andrew Streeter, director of packaging consultancy firm CPS International and Pack-Track analyst at Datamonitor told BakeryandSnacks.com.

“There appears to be a minority market but it’s not the mainstream market due to economics.”

Biodegradable and biosourced packaging is often more expensive than oil based polymers, so brand owners have every right to ask if it is worth the added expense.

Karine Dussimon, packaging analyst for Euromonitor International, seems to think so.

Environmental concerns are a growing driver behind consumers’ purchasing decision in advanced economies such as Western Europe and North America.”

“A green way of disposing of a pack is something brand owners in the snacks industry need to take into account looking mid- to long-term.”

But, green is not enough: Add value

Datamonitor’s Andrew Streeter added that since sustainable packaging comes at a premium for consumers, manufactures needed to ensure they up the value curve.

This could be via experimenting with pack formats, such as opting for a fixed rather than flexible structure, such as a pot, that could provide added convenience.

“Flexible plastic is also often seen by end consumers as lacking convenience, especially when choice of pack types is wide i.e. in mature countries – [flexibles] are not easy to carry along when open in particular,” ​added Dussimon.

Additional features sacrifice

Consumers opting for sustainable snacks packs may also need to sacrifice novel features such as easy-opening.

Streeter said this this was not because adding components such as resealability was more difficult or expensive, but it would add another expense on top of the already expensive packaging material that would put the product price out of consumer reach.

It's noisy being green

Even when a manufacturer has made the effort, there is no guarantee consumers will be satisfied – no matter how hard brand owners communicate the green credentials of their new packs.

Frito-Lay for example was slammed when it introduced polylactic acid (PLA) packaging derived from starch for its Sun Chips brand because Facebook fans said the packs were too noisy.

Waste collection

Brand owners also run the risk that consumers may feel tricked if they cannot sustainably dispose of a pack that claims to be green.

According to Euromonitor, brand owners are tending to prefer recyclable materials over more expensive biodegradable options. These include flexible metalized polypropylene film, which is commonly for potato chips.

But while this material is recyclable, global recycling provisions, which often rest with local municipal authorities, are often non-existent for this material.

Consumer confusion on the terms

“A major challenge to overcome with sustainable packaging is existing confusion among end consumers as to how to best dispose of the various types of pack materials; in particular between recyclability schemes and biodegradability,” ​added Dussimon.

Recyclable materials are those that can be made into other objects, whereas biodegradable or compostable materials degrade naturally over time.

“Any green initiative taken by a brand owner in the snacks industry requires good communication all the way to the end consumer in order to be well positioned and for the value of the overall product offering to be understood,” ​continued Dussimon.

More from this 'going green' special edition:

Sexy, cheap and eco-friendly: What retailers snack on

Shhhh! Sustainable snack packaging is a covert operation. But Why?

Sustainable snack pack materials: What's out there?

Far from rubbish? Food wast R&D simmers with snack packaging hope

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