Packaging is now a political issue and brands that don’t engage with, and respond to, the debate around sustainability, recycling and single-use might find their customers melting away.
A quick straw-poll around our own office reveals that everyone is plastic-conscious – cutting back where they can; swapping plastic-wrapped and made brands for more ethical alternatives – from solid shampoos and soaps to bamboo toothbrushes.
And it’s not just us: A survey by Pro Carton, the organisation that represents cartonboard makers across Europe, recently published a survey of 7000 European consumers in seven countries focused on packaging issues. Two thirds (68%) say being environmentally-friendly is more important to them and just over half claim they are buying more products in environmentally-friendly packaging.
What brand owners really need to take note of is the fact that 75% of the survey’s respondents claim the environmental impact of a product’s packaging affects their purchasing decision, 66% say they have switched brands because of concerns about the impact of packaging used and 77% claim they would pay a premium for a product in sustainable packaging.
Many brands are taking action: Barely a week goes by without one brand or another shouting about its latest sustainable packaging advances or trumpeting its use of packaging waste to create new products: There are so many it’s impossible to list them all; but here’s one of our recent favourites – check out the latest innovations from Adidas.
So, the future of packaging revolves around sustainability and will have to become part of the circular economy. The days of single-use are numbered and at Brandality we now factor packaging sustainability into all the brand briefs we work on. We’re particularly interested in the idea that packaging can be useful beyond its life as a product carrier/protector. Nutella glass jars already grace the cupboards of canny parents who ‘recycle’ them as small drinking tumblers and we loved this idea from the Australian arm of the business that made them glow-in-the-dark.
A few years ago Pizza Hut delivered a perfect PR stunt in the form of a pizza box that could be converted into a smartphone movie projector. While this didn’t really get much further than an advertising agency concept, there are other initiatives that have graced the shelves. Take last year’s winner of Pro Carton’s Carton of the Year award – Van Genechten Packaging. It created ‘party box’ packaging to hold six mini bottles of Moet et Chandon Champagne that turns into an ice-bucket to keep the fizz cold.
Brands selling via the internet are also becoming more inventive. Amazon is often much-maligned, but we can’t knock its efforts to make its operation more sustainable. It says over the past 10 years it has eliminated more than 244,000 tonnes of excess packaging – equivalent to avoiding 500 million shipping boxes.
One of the ways it does this is to work with brands on its Frustration-Free Packaging and Ships in Own Container initiatives. Both claim to cut out unnecessary packaging, and the latter means products are in ready-to-ship branded boxes.
Sticking with e-commerce, for the North American market P&G has created a bag-in-box style carton to cut down on the plastic it normally uses for its traditional detergent bottles and to create a more cost-efficient package to ship. Made to conform to Amazon’s packaging protocols, P&G says the carton uses 60% less plastic and the detergent 30% less water than the comparable 150oz plastic Tide original product.
When the latest issues of Out-of-Home magazine arrived in the office this month we loved how it came wrapped in a bag made from potato starch that can be composted at home or used to collect food waste. However, the Brandality award for the ultimate dual-purpose packaging must go to Genuine Coconut; why decant into another bottle when the original packaging is so perfect? Now, where’s my paper straw?