Shoppers tell brands, manufacturers and retailers to prioritise sustainable packaging, Beyond the Box shows

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Three-quarters of shoppers are so concerned about packaging that they want brands, manufacturers, and retailers to make significant changes – and ensure products are as sustainably packaged as possible before they hit the shelves, according to a new independent survey commissioned by sustainable packaging initiative, Beyond the Box. 

The nationwide study of 2,000 shoppers found three in five shoppers (62 per cent) claim to be thinking more about sustainability when in shops and supermarkets now versus five years ago. And three in four (75 per cent) want suppliers and brands to prioritise eco-friendly packaging as a quick-fire solution to help them live more sustainable lifestyles.

Four out of five respondents (81 per cent) said they thought items in shops and supermarkets were  still ‘over-packaged’ and more than half (58 per cent) reported that the material used to package a product influenced their purchasing decision, with paper-based materials like paper and cardboard considered to be the most eco-friendly, and a third (33%) avoiding single-use plastic. 

Consumers were also found to have sustainability front of mind when shopping for food products in particular, with more than half of those polled (55 per cent) actively seeking sustainable options, far exceeding those who consider sustainability when purchasing clothing (31 per cent) or cleaning products (26 per cent). In fact, more than a quarter of shoppers (29 per cent) said they now avoided plastic packaging on food products altogether. 

And, while sustainable packaging was a hot topic for Britons across the age spectrum, consumers under 45 years-old were revealed to be most eager for brands, manufacturers and retailers to prioritise eco-friendly packaging to help them live sustainably (78%). This compared with 72% of over 45s. 

However, despite deep-rooted shopper concerns about packaging, the study also reveals that perceptions over higher pricing for eco-friendly packaging remains a barrier for many consumers. Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of Britons believe that shopping sustainably is ‘too expensive for most people’ and one in five (20 per cent) said they always bought the cheapest product available, at the expense of sustainably packaged options.

Andy Barnetson, spokesperson for Beyond the Box, comments: “With the glaring media spotlight on packaging, it’s no surprise that almost two-thirds of consumers think more about sustainability when shopping than they did five years ago – and it’s encouraging to see more individuals giving extra thought to the sustainable credentials of materials used to package their favourite products. 

“Packaging has a vital role to play across FMCG, most notably extending the shelf life of goods and protecting them in transit. However, we know shoppers are increasingly seeking eco-friendly, recyclable options which have the least impact on the natural environment. 

“Our latest research reveals shoppers consider the packaging decisions brands, manufacturers and retailers make to play a big part in their personal sustainability efforts. So, while there has been a definitive move in the right direction over recent years, we hope this new data encourages even more of the industry to integrate sustainable packaging materials like cardboard across the supply chain. 

“In fact, with cardboard once again considered one of the most eco-friendly types of packaging, we’re encouraged to see that the Beyond the Box campaign – and our commitment to communicating the sustainable credentials of this versatile material – continues to resonate strongly with the British public. Thanks to its impressive UK recycling rate at more than 80%, cardboard remains the most widely recycled type of packaging.

“Cardboard is also a great option for retailers large and small to use throughout the store – whether it is used to house loose fresh produce, such as fruit and veg, or offered to shoppers to help them get their produce home safely.”