Sustainable packaging concerns rise as four in five people say it’s a priority, research reveals

Sustainable packaging concerns are higher than ever with ‘green priorities’ becoming more important to over a third of people in the UK since the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

A new study by Toluna, a leading consumer intelligence platform and parent company of Harris Interactive and KuRunData, which surveyed 1,053 adults in the UK, found that sustainable packaging remains a key issue for people, especially those aged between 18 and 34. Of this age group, 36% regard sustainable packaging as very important to them, compared to just over a quarter (26%) of those aged 55 and above.

Excessive packaging is the most pressing concern, with the ability to recycle packaging a priority – almost half (47%) believe this holds the key to eliminating packaging waste. The capital of the UK has emerged as the most eco-friendly, with 38% of those in Greater London describing sustainable packaging as very important to them. That figure rose even further to 40% in inner London.

Lucia Juliano, head of CPG & retail research at Harris Interactive, said: “The findings show that people in the UK are increasingly environmentally conscious, with sustainable packaging a key priority when it comes to becoming as ‘green’ as possible. Although the Covid-19 pandemic may have prompted greater use of single-use packaging, that doesn’t mean shoppers have abandoned all hope of sustainability. Indeed, 50% of 18-34-year olds believe the pandemic has made environmentally friendly packaging even more of a concern with unrecyclable packaging the biggest worry.”

Sustainable packaging in grocery shopping was the biggest factor in shaping a person’s choice or product or brand, especially for the 18-34-year-old age group. 42% of people said they favoured bagless deliveries but a far more substantial 64% would prefer paper bags. That’s despite bags of any form – paper or plastic – incurring a greater environmental cost than relinquishing bags altogether.

Covid-19 has also had a marked impact on packaged and non-packaged goods in grocery shopping. Bagless delivery was the most common option in online grocery shopping but the virus has put that sustainable option to the test. At the beginning of the pandemic, many supermarkets started delivering online groceries in bags for hygiene reasons. Although many supermarkets have since returned to delivering bagless produce, 30% of people are still not comfortable with that option.

Juliano added: “Our research makes clear that people are concerned with how their buying impacts the environment and are focused on creating a more sustainable future. Packaging is a vehicle in helping industries and their consumers become more eco-friendly. Retailers, manufacturers and others must re-think and re-design their sustainable policies in a way that will not only minimise the ill effects on the environment, but also appeal to a consumer base where sustainability is vital in the purchase of a product or service. Consumer insights play a vital role in helping businesses make data-driven decisions to meet consumer demands and navigate through even the most disruptive times.”