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  • MAP Asia Pacific Ltd

Sustainability in packaging: Inside the minds of US consumers

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly transformed consumer behavior in several ways: sparking higher price sensitivity, accelerating online shopping across all categories, and causing shoppers to focus even more on health, wellness, and hygiene. Consumer attitudes about sustainable packaging have also changed significantly. Before the pandemic, public awareness that packaging can leak into the environment had increased a good deal. Fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG) companies and retailers were making big commitments to sustainable packaging, and regulatory bodies were moving decisively on the issue.

To understand how consumer thinking has evolved since then, we launched a survey in ten countries around the world to explore consumers’ attitudes toward sustainable packaging. Responses from the US consumers who took part in the survey have uncovered five key findings. First, consumers actually rank overall sustainability relatively low as a buying criterion among end-use factors; they regard price, quality, brand, and convenience as more important. Indeed, even when we look specifically at packaging, it seems that hygiene, shelf life, and convenience rank significantly higher than environmental impact. The pattern is similar in the other countries we surveyed.

Second, more than half of US consumers are nonetheless highly concerned about the environmental impact of packaging in general. They worry about a wide range of issues, not one single factor, such as marine litter. Third, consumers are willing to pay more for green, but they would also buy additional sustainably packaged products if more of them were available and they were better labeled. Fourth, if you ask consumers what they want to see going forward, they are almost equally interested in recyclable and recycled plastic packaging and in fiber-based substitutes. Fifth, the COVID-19 crisis has significantly heightened consumer sensitivity to hygiene and food safety, which are new strong preferences for packaging materials.



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