Food and drink retailers face increased consumer pressure to provide sustainable packaging options, according to new research from Tetra Pak.
The packaging producer polled major retailers in the UK and Ireland on their attitudes and factors driving packaging choices.
Almost nine in ten retailers admit that climate change concerns are affecting the packages they’re choosing to put on their shelves and Tetra Pak’s statistics indicate this pressure is largely consumer-driven.
Our research shows that awareness of environmentally responsible packaging has increased significantly amongst retailers
97% of respondents believe their customers are taking action to reduce their ecological impact and this same number believe it is affecting purchasing decisions.
Responsible packaging has consequently become a major issue for almost all retailers, with 97% also saying it is a chief consideration when choosing a supplier.
Making the right choice
Tetra Pak’s research sheds light on the driving factors behind retailers’ packaging priorities and decision-making. The most common concern for retailers is having a package that comes from low carbon sources, with 45% citing this as a primary consideration.
This is closely followed by whether packaging comes from renewable sources (41%) and contains less plastic (38%).
However, the survey also highlights a lack of understanding on the part of retailers as to what constitutes ‘low carbon’ packaging. For example, 40% of retailers erroneously believe that aluminium is the material with the lowest environmental impact, when in reality, the metal’s carbon footprint is greater than that of many plant-based alternatives.
Stuart Lendrum, Head of Packaging at Iceland Foods welcomes the research and comments, “It should be easier to drive change with the whole industry and supply chain actively addressing the issues”, but cautions that, “the research also highlights the complex interdependence of the issues and knowledge gaps throughout and there is much work to be done”.
Although 77% of respondents agreed they could be doing more to offer products with packaging that has a low environmental impact, Tetra Pak’s results suggest progress will continue to be made. Almost half of respondents plan to stock products with sustainable packaging in the next two years, 43% in the next 12 months.
Although there is general consensus that the Government is prioritising solutions to environmental issues, the research highlights particular pressure is being placed on food and drink packaging suppliers to drive more sustainable packaging choices. Almost a third of retailers believe this demographic to be most responsible for ensuring we have more packaging with a low environmental impact.
There is clearly more to be done in practical terms to lower our carbon use and facilitate a global shift towards a circular economy
Johan Rabe, Managing Director of Tetra Pak North Europe, said: “Our research shows that awareness of environmentally responsible packaging has increased significantly amongst retailers. However, there is clearly more to be done in practical terms to lower our carbon use and facilitate a global shift towards a circular economy.
“We will continue to collaborate with the industry and work to find innovative packaging solutions that will help retailers offer more sustainable packaging choices to their customers. For example, by the end of 2020, Tetra Pak aims to launch the first tethered cap solution in Europe on a Tetra Rex® Plant-based package as part of a broader programme to help address the issue of plastic waste.
“Ultimately, climate change and waste reduction cannot be tackled in isolation. Equipped with the correct information, suppliers, retailers and consumers alike can complete the circular economy and cooperate towards building a more sustainable future.”
The full results of Tetra Pak’s research can be found in their newly published report, Positive Packaging: Towards a Carbon Future, the findings of which will be discussed in-depth at the company’s upcoming Carbon Summit on Tuesday 4th February 2020 at The Royal Institute of British Architects, London.