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Does Your Packaging Show You’re Listening to Consumers?

Does Your Packaging Show You’re Listening to Consumers?
A growing consumer desire for non-disposable packaging has a corollary: Make recycling convenient.

Younger consumers value sustainability more and brand loyalty less. How should brands respond with their packaging designs? A perspective from Dow.

For many products, the consumer experience begins with the packaging—and it’s the first opportunity to showcase the product’s sustainability. So, as consumers increasingly use their wallets to show their commitment to the environment, one kind of green is leading to another.

Nearly half of people ages 25-34 said they’ve stopped buying a company’s food or beverage products after discovering the company is not environmentally responsible, according to a survey by financial services firm ING.

Moreover, adults under age 30 have lower brand loyalty than previous generations, and they’re more likely to switch brands if a company’s values don’t align with their own. As this segment gains disposable income, a desire for non-disposable products will influence the future of all marketplaces. Our work at Dow, therefore, is to ensure the experience meets expectations from the moment that eco-conscious consumer eyes a product on the shelf.

Customer expectations are advancing the circular economy for plastics, creating a societal blueprint for public policy that champions a business-decision process that prioritizes nature. To make this work, the value chain needs to work together, and change must begin when product design starts. For brands, that change increasingly revolves around recyclability.

Recyclability doesn’t happen without an organized, capable infrastructure. To act on their sustainable values, consumers need products that can be recycled through existing streams. Brands need flexible partners that can adapt to their products’ needs. And converters need partners that can expand their scope and scale. Materials science companies can be the glue that brings it all together.

Bear Naked recyclable pouch

A crossroads of consumer, convenience, and sustainability.

So, at what crossroads can we all meet? One place we’re already seeing it happen is the grocery store, where convenient store drop-off bins make it easier for people to recycle. Plus, you can bet that as they drop off old purchases, the recyclability of new ones will be on their minds. As more consumers learn about the drop-off program, it’s our job to create recyclable products to comply with it. That’s why we developed RecycleReady technology for polyethylene-based (PE) flexible packaging that’s recyclable at the thousands of grocery store drop-offs across North America. We’re already building on industry firsts, such as developing the first fully recyclable stand-up barrier pouch with Kellogg’s Bear Naked granola products. And if our industry puts existing streams top-of-mind, we can foster greener supply and demand at the same time.  

We also need to optimize our own processes to close the loop and repurpose used plastics. Once again, this is easier done together. Partnerships are the backbone of innovation, and alongside Houston-based Avangard Innovative and Netherlands-based Fuenix Ecogy Group, Dow has begun incorporating used plastics back into valuable new products.

By pooling our expertise, we’ve channeled waste collection into post-consumer resin plastic film pellets—and even produced new polymers from the oil released by used plastic. Partnerships like this do more than produce innovative, cost-effective results; they help companies meet their aggressive sustainability goals, turning supply chains into true value chains.

Consumers, organizations and governments are demanding change, and that means the packaging value chain needs to demand it of ourselves, too. At Dow we believe that plastic is too valuable to lose to the environment.  It drives our business. If companies across industries expand their collaboration to include waste management and recycling technology leaders, and implement best practices in their own processes, they’ll be poised to make a lasting, positive impact — not just for themselves, but for generations to come.

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