It’s the Box that Matters. The Growth of Sustainable Packaging in Consumer Goods

In an often-rare collaboration it’s both Consumers and Government that are driving industry change. Plastics, styrofoam, and excessive packaging are being eliminated with consumers demanding, wanting and willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. More than half (54%) take sustainable packaging into consideration when selecting a product. Leading the dynamic shift is 83% of millennials and Gen Z’s reporting that they are willing to pay more for it.

Over the past 3 years both national and state governments in the US and Canada have adopted plastic-bans and new sustainable requirements. In recent years, eight states in the US have banned single use plastic bags California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont. Of the eight, this year, both Maine and Oregon have enacted extended producer fee legislation. In Canada, the banning of single use plastics legislation and enforcement is in play and the government is currently reviewing details around producer responsibilities.

Spurred by the growth of take-a-way services over the past few years, the quick serve restaurant (QSR) were the early adopters in the shift to viable, alternative replacement packaging. Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) are products that have a huge demand such as processed fresh and frozen foods, beverages, cosmetics, toiletries, health products, consumer electronics, etc. These companies are the latest in the re-think of the sustainable packaging movement.

The surge in demand has resulted Brand owners updating their sustainability policies by implementing sustainable material mandates including total plastics reduction goals as much as 26%. Announced in 2020, Coke, along with Heineken and Pepsi are replacing plastic rings which held bottles and cans together in 6 packs with sustainable paperboard products. This major supply chain shift will save upwards of 517 annualized tons of plastic into landfills in Europe alone.

The redesign of this packaging isn’t just a matter of swapping materials, but to truly deliver upon their sustainable commitments these organizations must look at the full lifecycle of their packaging. This shows how FMCG brand owners and retailers should consider much closer collaboration with upstream players such as paper and other substrate manufactures, whereby full transparency of raw materials are taken into account.

Chemical companies and paper manufacturers are developing new water-based coatings, expanding pulping technologies and innovating with more durable, yet lighter weight base paper products and which are fully sustainable and can keep food fresh and protected. While it’s the structural designers that must ensure packaging security, integrity and shelf performance; brand owners, paper mills, packaging converters and copackers must work together. Proper assessment, mapping, planning and benchmarking, can foster the integration of innovation across the entire product portfolio to close the loop moving forward.

This wholistic approach is a comprehensive rethink of their entire supply chains – forcing all elements of the value chain into new and unfamiliar territories including growing consumer awareness about packaging. These initiatives properly executed, will further drive awareness by consumers who use their purchasing power to drive much-needed change.