– But What Does That Really Mean? By:
Jonathan Asher, EVP at Perception Research Services
Do you love
The answer to
this simple yet loaded question is generally a resounding “yes!” That’s true
whether referring to one’s birth mother or Mother Earth. In both cases, most people
say they want what’s best for her; but their actions don’t necessarily match
their words. Sometimes that’s because it’s simply too hard, other times it’s
because they’re not quite sure what to do; or how to do it.
When it comes
to “Mother Earth”, we can be of some help – at least with regard to
environmentally friendly packaging.
Research Services has been conducting shopper research for the past four years
that tracks what shoppers say and do with regard to packaging and the
environment. Our latest findings reveal a growing desire to select
environmentally friendly packaging, along with increasing frustrations about
how to do so.
witnessed a rise in the proportion of shoppers wanting to choose
environmentally friendly packaging, and despite the economy, fully half said
they are willing to pay more for such packaging. This is especially true of
younger shoppers (those under 40).
environmental claims on packaging act as meaningful calls to action. Over half
of our sample reported that seeing such claims positively impacts their buying behavior.
these types of claims abound. In fact, for the past two years, a majority of
shoppers reported seeing more environmental claims when shopping for grocery
there is evidence that this abundance of messaging may not be providing as much
benefit as it could be. Despite so many claims being made, more shoppers stated
isn’t enough environmental information
confused by all of the different environmental claims
don’t know which package is best for the environment
that shoppers are seeing more and understanding less – leading to less meaningful
action on their part, and/or higher levels of frustration. And the implication
for marketers is that their efforts may go unnoticed or be misunderstood.
In order to
understand more specifically which environmental claims work well on packaging,
we conducted a separate study last year assessing eight different claims that
exist on various national and regional brands of bottled water. We evaluated these claims in terms of how
meaningful they are to shoppers, as well as how noticeable they are on pack (using
that while “100% recyclable” was the most meaningful message, very few people
actually saw it (only 4% of shoppers).
In fact, 70% or more did not see any of the claims! In addition, many of the claims – such as
Plant Based, Eco-Shaped and 1% for the planet - were meaningless to shoppers.
Of course, a
recyclable package is only helpful if shoppers do, in fact, recycle their
packaging. In our tracking survey, two-thirds said they recycle packaging on a
regular basis – and last year we saw a rise in the proportion of shoppers
checking to see if a package can be recycled prior to buying it.
said that the single biggest reason they don’t is because they forget. Therefore, effective messaging that reminds
consumers to recycle could help bridge the gap between shoppers’ stated concern
for the environment (66% very/somewhat concerned) and their actual behavior (46%
consumers to remember to recycle at home fits nicely with recent efforts on the
part of several food and beverage companies in the United States to assume the
costs of recycling their packaging after use - known as “extended producer
responsibility”. These efforts include setting up recycling collection bins at retailers
such as Whole Foods, or at sporting events such as NASCAR and the US Open
packaging is re-made into a similar product container, or transformed for some
other purpose - such as toothbrushes and razors from plastic yogurt cups, or
napkins from paper coffee cups.
companies are currently developing comprehensive “Sustainability” plans which
include changes to packaging (reducing the amount of material used, incorporating
recycled content and/or recyclable or renewable materials).
In doing so,
it is important to educate (or at a
minimum, inform) shoppers about the efforts that have been made – so that they
fully understand them, and so that companies get the credit they deserve for
help shoppers by crafting appropriate messages that:
(e.g., “still 16 oz.”)
(e.g., “made from recycled content”)
But they must
be sensitive to the increasing degree of scrutiny shoppers are bringing to this
stating that a bottle is made with 30% less material loses its perceived benefit
if shoppers wonder “less than what?” If
it’s less than the bottle that was sold over a year ago, is that still
meaningful? This is even more disconcerting
if the new bottle is less effective than the prior version (e.g., if it is so
thin that it collapses when opening, thereby spilling water).
more complex activities, such as providing plant-based bottles, will require
extensive educational efforts – beyond simple on pack messaging. Shoppers will need to be informed about the
environmental benefits, as well as reassured about the package’s material and
its ability to perform.
It should be
noted that while the content of the message is important, so too is the manner
of execution. When applied to packaging, care must be taken to ensure that
claims will be sufficiently visible. If they go unseen, then all of the efforts
to provide environmental benefits could be for naught.
shoppers really do want to help the environment, but they need help to do so
effectively and consistently. While they will not compromise functionality, they
are willing to pay a bit more for environmentally friendly packaging as long as
they understand which packages are better for the environment and are reminded
of steps they can take.
If a bottle
is recyclable, then stating that message clearly will be compelling. And if the communication can also remind
shoppers to actually recycle the package, then all the better.
packaging that delivers benefits that shoppers care about, understand, and will
make use of, will ultimately reduce waste and lessen the carbon footprint.
something that every Mother could be proud of!