In recent years, consumer demand for eco-friendly food packaging has increased. This, coupled with advancements in recyclable, biodegradable and compostable options shows promise in creating a potential new opportunity for food manufacturers. The solution may be as simple as offering on-pack information about the environmental responsibility of various pack types.

Consider this: According to Mintel’s 2016 Packaging Report, 80% of U.S. food shoppers believe that reducing food waste is as important as reducing packaging waste. When polled, more than half of them (52%) expressed a desire to buy foods with either minimal or no packaging. 54% expressed willingness to pay more for packaging that offered features, that offered portion control, the ability to reseal, while 30% indicated that often repurposed food packaging for other purposes. Despite these numbers seeming to indicate that consumers are trying to be conscientious, only 42% of consumers indicated that they recycled their used food packaging. So why the disconnect? Why is the consumer desire for eco-friendliness not translating to more recycling of food packaging?

John Owen, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel explains “Our research shows that reducing food waste is top of mind for consumers. This presents opportunities for food brands and retailers to address these concerns through innovating packaging and product messaging.” Even so, in 2015 only 21% of new food products being introduced to shelves had any kind of on-pack recycling claims. Mintel believes that there is a solution to spreading information and dramatically increasing consumer recycling efforts. With this in mind, Mintel’s global packaging team has been spreading to word about the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s How2Recycle label to brand owners, packaging converters and retailer clients. How2Label arms eco-conscious consumers with hyper-local information about packaging recycling options.

Two things are clear. First, consumers are increasingly becoming concerned about the potential environmental harm of food packaging. Second, food manufacturers aren’t doing enough to keep eco-friendly consumers informed about the recyclability of their packaging. This presents an opportunity for food manufacturers to win the trust of consumers and increase sales. With on-package recycling information, food manufacturers will be able to gain an advantage over their competitors. Further, with 63% of consumers interested in buying packaging that they can re-use, re-usable containers offer an enticing buying option. As the push for eco-responsibility increases, the opportunity to gain a competitive foothold over their competitors lies, in part, in engaging their consumers about how to be a more responsible global citizen.


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