Report: Consumer demand for renewable packaging could be tipping point for adoption

Dive Brief:

  • Though more manufacturers and consumers are aware of the potential benefits and value of renewable packaging materials, four factors may still impact industrywide adoption: communication, complexity, cost and consumer demand, according to a new Tetra Pak report.
  • Consumer awareness of resource scarcity remains relatively low. When consumers are educated, they are more willing to work to mitigate the situation, Tetra Pak found during its Learning Labs, which produced the report’s findings.
  • Members of the industry who participated in the Learning Labs said that increased consumer demand for renewable packaging could be a tipping point toward accelerated adoption of these materials across the industry, in spite of other key barriers, like cost.

Dive Insight:

The report explores different methods to approach consumers for manufacturers that want to promote renewable packaging either in their own operations or the global supply chain. One strategy is to frame use and recycling of packaging materials as having a financial rather than social incentive, as the latter is not always a powerful motivator for consumers.

However, while certain states offer financial incentives for recycling food and beverage packaging, they may not be widespread enough to target a broader market. Manufacturers could work with each other, as well as environmental groups or government agencies to develop financial incentive programs that promote renewable materials and recycling.

Manufacturers could also align their vocabulary and terminology to promote consumer awareness and understanding of the uses and benefits of renewable materials. The industry recognized a similar need when attempting to address the global food waste situation. This was addressed internally, through standardized definitions and reporting requirements, and among consumers, through proposed legislation for a national standard for “sell by” dates and related food labels.

Tackling food waste through packaging initiatives is another education strategy, and renewable materials can come into play here too. European researchers developed a prototype for a new bioplastic beverage packaging material derived from a concentration of fermentable sugars found in juice processing wastewater. This provides the dual benefit of repurposing waste materials from food and beverage production while also promoting a renewable packaging source made from natural materials.