Subtle change characterizes today's consumer perceptions of environmentally sustainable packaging. In other words, it's no longer the era of consumers overspending on shopping sprees or letting unused products go to waste. Skyrocketing food prices have opened people's minds to cost-cutting and waste reduction. Here's a look at the current state of how consumer patterns have evolved to reflect a growing cultural focus on sustainable food packaging.
How Consumers Respond to Food Packaging
Consumers perceive food packaging information on various levels. On a conscious level, many consumers care about what they put in their bodies, which influences them to check food ingredients. This same sector of consumers overlaps with people who want to see more eco-friendly packaging. Here's a brief look at the three crucial areas of consumer response that packaging designers should consider for sustainable design:
- Awareness: In the past decade, consumer awareness has increased dramatically about environmental protection. Heightened media coverage of companies going green and the effects of climate change have brought ecological concerns to the forefront of mainstream issues. But the least educated people tend to be the least interested in green concepts like recycling.
- Behavior: A growing number of consumers now pay closer attention to labels on packaging to gauge whether or not the item is eco-friendly. Stricter regulations on waste disposal at the community level have contributed to consumers making more purchases based on sustainability concerns.
- Expectations: Educated consumers have higher expectations of eco-friendly packaging. Studies are mixed on the degree to which education level impacts consumer buying patterns related to green packaging, but it's clear that more and more consumers expect manufacturers to take proactive steps in reducing packaging waste.
Variables of Age, Gender, and Other Demographics
Different age groups have different perceptions of sustainable food packaging. Baby boomers saw the transition in culture toward environmental activism, whereas younger generations were born into the movement. The issue of sustainability is much less of a debate with younger demographics because many young people simply don't have as much money as their parents.
The rising cost of living plays deeply into the goals of sustainability, as today's youth is more conscious of preservation as a virtue. Cutting waste not only helps the environment, but it also helps save money. Young people also want to maximize their spending, which relates to how they are more likely than seniors to recognize current eco-symbols on food packaging. At the same time, older people are more likely to demand more information on labels in terms of environmental impact and more likely to engage in recycling.
As far as gender, studies show women are more likely to pay attention to environmental concerns than men. This dynamic may be attributed to women having a greater sense of daily household management and concern for the care of others. Women are also more likely to care about food security, ingredients on food labels, and recycling.
Keys to Developing Sustainable Food Packaging
The fact that food is a perishable product affects how it can be packaged. Metal universally works as a packaging material for a wide range of products, especially food, to its protective and durable qualities. Consumers of all demographics recognize metal as an ideal container for food preservation.
One of the emerging innovations that are likely to replace plastics and spread among food producers in the future is fiber-based packaging. The production process converts pulp to paper, board, or tissue, allowing for more lightweight packaging. In the meantime, plastic is still omnipresent, although government regulations are getting stricter on plastic production. The problem with plastic is that it contains toxins that can seep back into the environment and cause harmful effects on marine life, threatening the food chain.
Until more sustainable packaging arrives, metal is still the most resourceful type of packaging, as it can preserve canned food for years. Metal and its various alloys are easy to recycle to create new products as an alternative to mining. Metal containers are more likely to preserve the freshness and nutrients of food than any other form of packaging. Aluminum has many sustainable qualities because it's lightweight and can be molded into any shape with minimal residue that goes to waste.
Understanding how consumers respond to environmentally sustainable food packaging is vital to the development of improved packaging. Metal continues to be a solution to sustainable food packaging, but designers need to be prepared for other sustainable packaging solutions in the future.
 Consumers' Awareness, Behavior and Expectations for Food Packaging Environmental Sustainability: Influence of Socio-Demographic Characteristics (2022) ,Chiara Chirilli , Martina Molino , and Luisa Torri