World in view: next generation packaging sustainability

“From packaging to store concepts, there is a clear shift in all consumer mindsets towards a common standard of less processing or wastefulness. Brands that don’t adhere will be left behind," noted Fleur Gadd, Senior Research Executive at The Big Picture. (Stylus: Eco-Ethical-Sustainable, 8 Nov 2013)

For eco-conscious consumers, environmental altruism has been the key motivator driving their behaviors. While leaving the world in a better place remains the core desire, consumers recognize that less wastefulness also yields financial savings. This dual advantage has helped accelerate and broaden interest in sustainability among new consumer groups.

Couple this insight with the efforts of municipal governments and green bloggers encouraging people to think twice about their waste footprint and this has resulted in a stronger foundation for Precycling.

Making up thirty percent of the US’s solid waste stream, packaging is the most visible environmental offender. Sustainability trailblazers are rethinking, and even eliminating, traditional package formats to tackle the triple bottom line head on.

A World Without Packaging?

The idea of eliminating packaging from the customer journey is pretty scary, but, oftentimes, change can create opportunity. An obvious question arises: “If products are sold outside of a primary packaging, how can brands make up for the loss of a touchpoint that for many is the primary driver of brand awareness and brand loyalty?”

Rethinking a brand’s business model is one answer. Can the brand switch to a durable, refillable model to reduce waste? Can its primary packaging be utilized as a reusable container for bulk and quantity control formats? And if so, how can this durable container become an even better vehicle for branding than the one that’s discarded?

Another strategy is ensuring that key visual brand assets live on in the usage experience. If primary packaging disappears, how can ownable elements like the logo, colors and shapes, be applied to the product itself to reinforce brand association? Additionally, can aspects of the usage experience itself become more proprietary to create a link back to brand?

Heightening the role of point-of-sale is an additional consideration. Is there a sponsorship opportunity for the bulk food area to pursue in order to maintain a presence? Can the labeling of products in this area be more emotive and branded?

Governments unpacking the Zero Waste Challenge

While recycling has been effective to a certain degree, it requires time, energy, resources, and commitment. Thus, from Scotland to New Zealand, governments are instituting Zero Waste concepts and partnering with environmental organizations to influence communities and businesses. Read more on SF Environment and Upstream.

On the Leading Edge

Retailers, Brands, and Innovations – check out how these precycling trailblazers are rethinking retail environments and packaging in the context of Zero Waste.

In.gredients grocery store in Austin, TX aims to reduce waste through reusable and compostable containers. Most items are sold in a bulk format so consumers just pay for the weight of the product. 

LunchSkins strives to reduce the lunch footprint through environmentally friendly reusable food storage bags. 

Martek Food System has leveraged learning from bulk food and launched self-serve dispensing systems for pet food retailers. 

Monosol creates water soluble films, compounds, and solutions for a variety of products from coffee to personal care.

There’s much to consider and more to learn on this trend. We’ll definitely be monitoring its impact on consumer behavior and triple bottom lines.

Interested in talking about the next generation for your packaging? Follow Interbrand Cincinnati on Twitter at @InterbrandCinci.

Contributors

Senior Director, Strategy & Research