Does every consumer who is aware of sustainable issues practice them? No, but awareness of green products that is associate with positive expectations can be a catalyst for purchasing decisions. The deeper the awareness, the closer the consumer moves to consider a purchase. It's essential for both manufacturers and product packaging designers to understand the relationship between consumer awareness, expectations, and purchasing decisions.
Informed Consumers vs. Uninformed Consumers
There's a major difference in the shopping behaviors of informed versus uninformed consumers. If a shopper has limited knowledge of health or the environment, but they love to indulge in junk food that gradually weakens the immune system, it's going to be hard for anyone to convince them they should buy healthier food. For many people, the taste is all that matters when it comes to eating. Without environmental knowledge, they could probably be sold the same food in any type of packaging.
Informed shoppers who do research on nutrition and the environment expect greener products from major manufacturers. But that doesn't mean that's all they buy. Grocery choices often reflect what's available at a certain price in a nearby supermarket. Budget and convenience often override health or environmental concerns among even some of the most educated consumers.
A study on consumer behavior conducted by Rokka and Uusitalo found a significant gap between attitude and behavior. The study further revealed that the ethical concerns and good intentions for going green are insufficient to drive consumer purchasing behavior. Consumers who deeply study sustainability do buy green products, but typically only after extensive engagement with environmental books, websites, and videos.
Development of Consumer Expectations
It's clear that consumer awareness and expectations make a big difference in purchasing decisions, it's simply a matter of degree. If someone is aware of what a product can do because they've witnessed others use it, they easily form expectations of the product's value in resolving problems. Without this understanding, the product becomes a harder sell. When products fail to meet expectations, consumers often turn to competitors.
Consider how some nostalgic people still enjoy buying vinyl records because that's what they listened to all their lives. Do these vinyl enthusiasts think much about the environmental effects of mass-producing toxic pieces of plastic when the majority of vinyl records released to the public never sell? No, because there's no widespread awareness campaign to make them picture stacks of unsold albums going to waste in a warehouse.
The same is true with food products. For many consumers, food is a separate issue from the environment (even though that's where food originates). The pleasures of eating often outweigh issues of packaging waste and what becomes of packaging after it's tossed in the trash.
Just as vinyl music fans often purchase records based on awareness and expectations of sound quality and musical talent, food lovers typically have greater expectations of food flavor rather than food packaging. It's much easier to convince people to buy green products that have a less emotional attachment. Most people view plastic as cheap, for example, so the plastic packaging doesn't generate as much enthusiasm as metal packaging. Consumers are commonly introduced to sustainable purchasing patterns via aluminum cans, which typically promote recycling on the label.
Ways Awareness and Expectations Affect Consumer Behaviour
Patterns in consumer behavior change with trends and mass-promoted narratives. But what generally stays the same over time is consumers don't like to waste money. When they buy something that doesn't do what they expect and they aren't able to return it (because it's a food item), they feel burned. They don't necessarily blame the brand or the store, but they learn to avoid bad experiences.
The growing awareness among consumers of environmental concerns is leading to mass expectations of a greener world. People naturally expect products they buy at their neighborhood shopping center to be safe and live up to the brand's claims. Products and packaging that are exposed in the news as unsafe or wasteful can easily get crossed off shopping lists quickly.
The gap between consumer attitude and behavior narrows the more a brand includes important product information on packaging. The more educated a consumer becomes about sustainability, the more likely they will embrace green products, but it often also requires widespread awareness campaigns. It's easy for consumers to forget about environmental issues when they are driven by appetite and immediate emotional gratification.
Loyal green customers support eco-friendly products typically after accumulating vast knowledge about them. In many situations, consumer purchasing decisions depend on how well a product serves the individual buyer rather than society. But exposure to explanations of how products and packaging are related to the environment can open people's minds to the next stage of the sales funnel, which is gathering deeper information.
 Consumers' Awareness, Behavior and Expectations for Food Packaging Environmental Sustainability: Influence of Socio-Demographic Characteristics(2022) by Chiara Chirilli , Martina Molino , and Luisa Torri