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Study: Consumers see value in biodegradable food packaging

Study: Consumers see value in biodegradable food packaging
Consumers desire on-package sustainability information such as recycling and the carbon footprint.

A consumer study on food packaging sustainability in restaurants and grocery stores found keen interest in biodegradability as a Plan B option when recycling isn’t possible.

What do consumers really want and expect from companies and brands when it comes to paper and packaging products? The 2017 Paper & Packaging Consumer Trends Report from Asia Pulp and Paper explored this question to gain insight into consumers’ thoughts and preferences through an online survey conducted June 1-4, 2017, among a representative sample of 1,015 U.S. adults 18 years of age and older, comprising 505 males and 510 females. The research specifically looked at the importance of sustainability for paper, food packaging and delivery packaging, and how it influences consumer purchasing behavior.

The first section of the report explored the importance of sustainability in food packaging, specifically in restaurants and grocery store settings as shown in the accompanying graphics. Ian Lifshitz, the vice president of sustainability & stakeholder relations for APP, provided these custom insights for Packaging Digest.


What are the main takeaways from the study? What was the biggest surprise?

Lifshitz: More than ever, consumers are demanding sustainable choices when it comes to the way their food is packaged. Because of the many complexities around sustainability and food packaging, consumers are looking for brands to offer a variety of packaging solutions that keep the environment’s well-being in mind.

Our 2017 Paper & Packaging Consumer Trends Report found that consumers ranked biodegradability attributes just as important as sustainability and recyclability attributes. Even more surprising is that 45% of consumers want these brands to offer food packaging that is biodegradable when it cannot be made recyclable.

Many types of food packaging, such as those that hold hot foods and beverages, can be difficult to recycle because they require a polymer barrier coating. Innovations and advances in technology in the packaging industry are changing the way we think about food packaging—including this shift to biodegradable food packaging options. Solutions like biodegradable packaging can keep consumers’ minds at ease, knowing that the packaging will break down naturally over the course of a few weeks.


What advice do you have for brands and packaging companies?

Lifshitz: We know that in the last five years, the importance of sustainability has risen significantly among consumers. Because of this, it’s so important for brands to first make sure they have an end-to-end sustainability program in place. From there, brands need to make sure they are meeting the sustainability commitments outlined in those programs. Education and awareness of these types of solutions is a big component to this and brands should frequently and closely examine their supply chains to understand whether all elements are meeting the sustainability standards consumers’ demand.

They should also make sure they are communicating clearly to their customers that they are meeting their commitments—one of the best ways to do this is to make sure the labels on their packaging clearly state the sustainable attributes.

To review the full survey findings, please email [email protected].


Hungry for fresh ideas in packaging and plastics? Join the packaging experience during MinnPack in Minneapolis November 8-9 that’s part of a comprehensive all-in-one 6-event plastics and advanced manufacturing exhibition. For more information, visit MinnPack.


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