Organic products are in vogue. However, they are not always ecologically packaged. A study by the University of Giessen on behalf of the German Folding Carton Industry Association (FFI) and the European Association of Carton and Cardboard manufacturers (Pro Carton) shows how organic products benefit from folding carton packaging.
Manufacturers often fail to follow through with the sustainability concept of organic products to the packaging stage. Plastic packaging is still often used for organic products instead of more sustainable packaging alternatives. In connection with the sustainability concept, the question arises how far the packaging material influences consumer perception and evaluation of organic products. The Chair of Marketing and Sales Management at the Justus Liebig University of Giessen (JLU) has addressed this question on behalf of the Fachverband Faltschachtel-Industrie e.V. (German Folding Carton Industry Association). and Pro Carton. Dr Melanie Bowen from JLU presented the results of a representative study on 26 September 2019 in the Forum PackBox of FachPack. The theme of the FachPack event and the study were “How organic products benefit from folding cartons”. The study proves that the perception of organic products is positively influenced by sustainable packaging and that sustainable packaging can increase sales of organic products.
Organic products are perceived as better, higher quality, more credible or more sustainable if they are packaged in cardboard instead of plastic. These are some of the findings of the current study, which focuses on the influence of packaging material on consumer product perception. 1,252 consumers between the ages of 18 and 69 were surveyed on nine important product categories that are produced both conventionally and ecologically – coffee, biscuits, muesli, pasta, chocolate, soap, T-shirts, frozen vegetables and pet food.
Survey participants were first asked what type of packaging they considered to be typical in certain product categories. The result: they expect plastic packaging in the categories coffee, T-shirts, chocolate, pasta and frozen vegetables. There is no clear trend for muesli and soap, while respondents typically expect biscuits and pet food to be packed in a folding box. For the researchers, this means the positive perception of the folding box shown in the study is not because consumers have already become accustomed to it – on the contrary: they have become accustomed to plastic packaging.
Consumers do not want to pay more for sustainable packaging
The surveys revealed that women and men in different age groups consider folding cartons to be of higher quality and more sustainable, regardless of whether the packaging contains an organic or a conventional product. Except for chocolate, the folding carton is perceived as a more sustainable packaging alternative in all categories mentioned. Folding cartons are perceived as better in all product categories except chocolate and pet food, and as higher quality in all categories except biscuits, chocolate and pet food. Organic products are perceived as better and more sustainable in most categories when packaged in cartons. However, this is not the case for T-shirts, which are not perceived as better or worse whether they are presented in film or cardboard.
For the organic product categories coffee, biscuits, muesli, soap and chocolate, the study shows that cardboard packaging increases consumers’ purchasing probability by an average of 13 per cent. For the manufacturers this means they can create stronger purchasing incentives if they sell organic products in carton packaging. “However, even if the likelihood of purchase increases when organic products are packaged in cartons, consumers are not significantly more willing to pay a higher price,” as the study also shows.
“Since consumers usually see product and packaging in context, it makes sense to package organic products sustainably. However, this has so far been done far less frequently than would be possible. Organic food or natural cosmetics are often packaged in exactly the same way as their conventional counterparts. The manufacturers of organic products do not seem to follow through with the sustainability promise they make with their products to the point of packaging,” explains Christian Schiffers, Managing Director of FFI, which represents the interests of more than 60 companies.
Consumers want more information printed on the packagings
Honest sustainability attracts consumers – the title of another study presented by Pro Carton at FachPack. According to Horst Bittermann, President of Pro Carton (photo), one of the results is that 88 per cent of German consumers want information on the packaging that shows how environmentally friendly the packaging material is. A total of 7,000 consumers took part in the Europe-wide survey. Half of the German respondents stated that they did not buy products packaged in non-sustainable materials. Nine out of ten buyers in Germany want packaging to be easily recyclable.
And since half of the Germans already reject products that are not sustainably packaged, it is obvious that consumer goods manufacturers must do more to meet the rising expectations, according to Pro Carton.
The baby boomer generation is particularly critical when it comes to sustainable packaging. According to the survey, eight out of ten over-50s in Germany indicated that more needs to be done to introduce environmentally friendly packaging. 90 per cent of them would go for sustainable packaging if they had a choice between the same product packaged in cardboard or plastic. However, the results among the millennials are clearer, with 61 per cent of the 19 to 29-year-olds surveyed in Germany stating that they changed brands last year due to the product packaging. Recyclability and unnecessary repackaging were cited as the main reasons.
A further conclusion of the study is that German consumers are more environmentally conscious than those in the UK, where 68 per cent state that the environmental impact of the packaging of a product influences their purchasing decision. However, they still lag behind some of their European counterparts in their commitment to environmentally friendly packaging: in Spain, 81 per cent of consumers look at the environmental characteristics of packaging when making their purchasing decision.
At FachPack, Pro Carton also presented the fresh winners and their success stories in the European Carton Excellence Award and the Pro Carton Young Designers Award – a few days after the awards ceremony in Malta on 19 September.