Thought Leadership

KEEPING IT CLEAN

Keith Luckeroth
Account Director
July 23, 2020
Many Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies and retailers are attempting to set goals and honor commitments to integrate eco-friendly solutions into their packaging and product design. Beyond reducing their carbon footprints and the positive impact that comes with sustainability, an eco-friendly strategy-when done correctly-can support CPG brands with reducing shipping and overhead costs while generating consumer loyalty, especially among younger consumers.

As Generation Z consumers become the new target for the new decade—as Millennials were in the last two decades—companies and retailers are learning just how crucial it is to incorporate sustainable practices into their brands. In a recent study by First Insight, Gen Z consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable brands when compared to other demographics. Researchers found that 73% of those surveyed would pay more for sustainable products and the majority were willing to pay 10% more.

“With Generation Z on track to becoming the largest generation of consumers this year, retailers and brands must start supercharging sustainability practices now if they are to keep pace,” says First Insight CEO Greg Petro. “With every generation, sustainability is becoming further embedded in purchase decisions.” If you aren’t exploring ways to shift your products and brands in this direction…now is the time to start!

With the majority of consumers becoming more vocal about sustainability, it is time to start (or further develop) eco-friendly strategies. Typically, the term “eco-friendly” relates to a product or packaging that is easily recycled and safe for both individuals and the environment. It relies on renewable energy and uses as much renewable or recycled materials as possible. Usually, eco-friendly is often interchangeably used with green or sustainable. Depending on a brand’s purpose or vision, specific nuances to the terms “eco-friendly,” “green,” and “sustainability” can also come to light. However, when it comes to the package and product, the materials and design are paramount to creating an eco-friendly solution.

Materials

The materials you choose to use in your packaging can make a huge difference. Some companies are using new technology to take very harmful packaging materials out of landfills. According to CNN, Perdue Farms will start replacing Styrofoam packaging, which is harmful to the environment, with an eco-friendly alternative: a cornstarch-based foam that is compostable and disintegrates under running water.

Perdue Farms, a 100-year-old family-owned company based in Salisbury, Maryland, is one of largest chicken, turkey, beef, and pork processing companies in the United States. It produces meat for several brands including Coleman Natural, Perdue Harvestland, and Niman Ranch. As a sustainability initiative, Perdue Farms has pledged to reduce 30% of greenhouse gas emissions per pound of its products by 2022. A significant part of reaching this goal is by switching to the cornstarch-based foam.

“We’ve had significant conversations at the company in the past year about our sustainability efforts and what more we can do to reduce the impact on the environment,” said David Zucker, Perdue Farms’ Senior Vice President of E-commerce and New Ventures. While it’s no longer a secret that livestock and meat processing causes a significant impact on our carbon footprint, this new packaging is a good first step to removing unnecessary waste from landfills and the environment.

The Demand for Sustainability
“While Baby Boomers seem to be the holdouts when it comes to expecting more sustainable practices within retail overall, the research shows that with every generation, sustainability is becoming further embedded in purchase decisions.”

First Insight, “The State of Consumer Spending: Gen Z Shoppers Demand Sustainable Retail”, December 2019

PACKAGE DESIGN

Beyond the materials used in packaging, the design itself can also make a huge difference. A perfect example of how packaging design can be eco-friendly is illustrated by an academic project by Allan Gomes for the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil. While this is only an academic study at this point, it tells a great story of how to literally “think outside the box.” Namely, eliminate additional packaging altogether. For example, instead of having a tube of toothpaste within a cardboard box, redesign the tube to not only hold the toothpaste but also hold itself up at shelf.

When you explore “outside the box” ideas for all products, you can remove redundant packaging without sacrificing brand and product awareness at shelf.

 

PRODUCT DESIGN

Of course, the product itself can also make a huge difference when it comes to sustainability- ordinary household products like toilet paper that we use every day.

Procter & Gamble’s largest toilet paper rolls are getting even bigger with a new Charmin Forever Roll, a massive toilet-paper roll that can last up to three months. The intent was to reduce the number of rolls consumers purchased in an attempt to become eco-friendly. targeting Gen Z and Millenials, the initial launch included two sizes and then added an even larger XL version. According to Business Insider, P&G released the XL version after finding that more than 90% of consumers were purchasing the biggest roll. The smallest roll has since been dropped.

“Our hypothesis was that it would be a slow and gradual trade up to the larger roll, that people would dip their toes in with a small version and make their way up with time,” Rob Reinerman, Innovation Director for P&G Family Care said. “It was the
exact opposite.”

By rethinking and designing everyday products, you can significantly reduce the amount of packaging needed for the products, and also significantly reduce the number of products needed to be put on shelf.

Passing the Responsibility
“One limitation to consumer sustainability efforts is that they think it’s someone else’s responsibility. While consumers may voice green or ethical sentiments, they are often too cash-strapped or short of time to turn belief into action. As a result they are looking to manufacturers, retailers, and brands to do the good work for them.”

Mintel, “Food Packaging Trends – US“, June 2019

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