At Perception Research Services (PRS), we recently completed a wave of research on environmentally friendly packaging and were surprised by the findings. Fewer shoppers agreed that they should be responsible for recycling packaging than in 2009 (38% vs. 42%).
And while more shoppers expect environmentally friendly packaging to cost more (36% vs. 15% in 2008), fewer report a willingness to pay for it (51% vs. 57% in 2008), and a majority (59%) say that environmentally friendly packaging should be at no additional cost to the consumer.
Ironically, while few indicate they would like to choose more environmentally friendly packaging (28%), nearly half (48%) think manufacturers should produce more of it; and fully one third (35%) think government should mandate stricter environmental standards for packaging.
Shoppers reliance on manufacturers’ efforts may derive from an awareness of the steps that have been taken, as half of the shoppers polled have noticed companies’ claims about environmentally friendly packaging. And of those, half noticed more of these claims in the past six months.
Fortunately for manufacturers, these shoppers feel their motives are primarily virtuous as over half say companies are making these efforts for reasons having to do with helping the environment (e.g., reduce waste, save resources, make the world a better place, etc), while very few attribute these actions to self-serving interests, such as, selling more product or increasing profits. And few think companies overstate the environmental benefits of their packaging.
Shoppers’ reported behavior patterns suggest that they want someone else to do the work in this area, as nearly half say that seeing a “made from recycled materials” claim makes them more interested in buying the product, a significant increase from 2009 (48% vs. 39%). This more passive activity contrasts with the fact that very few (only 17%) say they check to see if a package is recyclable before buying a product. And, fully one-third report that they generally do not recycle packaging, consistent with the 2008 level.
It’s becoming clear that while consumers may voice concern for the environment, most appear unwilling – at the moment – to make any major sacrifices to make a difference. They’d rather rely on manufacturers to provide products and packaging that they can feel good about, without changing their behavior, giving up performance, or paying more.
Manufacturers have had the impression that they needed to be in synch with consumers’ environmental concerns and fit with the emerging lifestyle of ‘going green’. Our findings suggest that rather than follow consumers’ lead, manufacturers must be at the forefront, making it easier for shoppers to buy the products they prefer while also feeling good about the environmental impact, and making as little sacrifice as possible. It’s a tall order, but if delivered, will be highly rewarded.
About the author
Jonathan Asher is an SV P at Perception Research Services, Inc. (PRS). PRS specializes in research to help clients “win at retail.” and conducts over 800 custom studies annually to help marketers deepen their shopper understanding and develop more effective packaging, category management and in-store marketing efforts. In addition to the U.S. headquarters, PRS has offices in London, Geneva and Singapore. For more information visit www.prsresearch.com.