CIWM Report Explores Shift In Consumption Patterns

A new report commissioned by CIWM explores how advances in digital technology are changing how and what we consume and driving supply chain innovation, with particular reference to packaging and the grocery sector.

Entitled Digital technology and consumer trends: future scenarios for waste and resource management, the report was written by consultant John Twitchen, and suggests that consumer buying behaviour and expectations are on course to change significantly over the next few years, supported by technological and digital innovation. It identifies a number of strengthening trends:

  • UK consumers are showing a greater propensity to shop online that in many other countries around the world
  • online grocery sales are on the rise and new entrants in the marketplace are driving innovation and competition, particularly on the delivery front
  • the Internet of Things means smart, interactive technology is moving into the home and changing the way we buy things
  • new ways of purchasing food, for example in the form of pre-measured ingredients for a specific meal, are on the increase.

Retailers and brands, who are both enabling and responding to these trends, are developing a more ‘personal’ relationship with their customers and there are signs of a shift in responsibility for, and influence on, wastes and resources up the product supply chain.

“Over the next 30 years, what we consume, how we consume it – both where and when – and what resources are used and wasted will continue to change.”

“Co-op is already doing a lot of work on recyclability of packaging and resource efficiency, so for us, it’s important to understand how these shifts in consumption patterns will change the way we engage with consumers and also what the resource implications may be,” says Sarah Wakefield, Food Sustainability Manager for Co-op, who was on the steering group for the report.

While data provided by Valpak for the report shows that these new trends and disruptive consumption models are not yet translating into significant changes in packaging design and waste, the scenarios examined by retail and design experts for the report highlight the potential for radical change in the future, for example as the traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ approach is replaced by ‘dark stores’ dedicated to servicing ‘click & collect’ and home delivery customers.

“We haven’t reached a tipping point yet but we need to be thinking about a different future,” says CIWM’s 2016/17 President Professor Margaret Bates. “Over the next 30 years, what we consume, how we consume it – both where and when – and what resources are used and wasted will continue to change.

This will influence the types and volumes of waste for which our sector has to plan and present new opportunities to improve resource efficiency. The report suggest that these opportunities will only be fully realised, however, if we have better data to inform planning and  evidence-based policy making, and more ‘collective responsibility’ across the supply chain.

A downloadable version of the report can be found here

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