Study: Cardboard upgrades organic products

Organic products have been in vogue for years. However, they are not always ecologically packaged. A study carried out by the University of Giessen on behalf of the Folding Carton Industry Association (FFI) and Pro Carton shows how organic products benefit from folding carton packaging.

The likelihood of buying organic products increases when they are packaged in folding cartons. 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 results of a recent study conducted by the Justus Liebig University of Giessen, Department of Marketing and Sales Management under the direction of Professor Dr. Alexander Haas, on behalf of the German Association of the Folding Carton Industry (FFI) and Pro Carton. What influence does the packaging material have on the consumer’s perception of the product? This question is the focus of the study „How organic products benefit from folding carton packaging“. 1,252 consumers between the ages of 18 and 69 were surveyed on nine important product categories that are produced both conventionally and according to organic criteria: 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 consider 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 due to the fact that consumers have already become accustomed to it – on the contrary: they have become accustomed to plastic 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.


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The results in detail: With the exception of chocolate, the folding carton is perceived as a more sustainable packaging alternative in all the above categories. Folding cartons in all product categories mentioned except chocolate and pet food are perceived as better, while folding cartons in all categories except biscuits, chocolate and pet food are perceived as higher quality.

Organic coffee or organic muesli made of cardboard increases willingness to buy by 13 percent

Organic products are perceived as better and more sustainable in most categories when packaged in cartons. However, this is not the case with T-shirts, which are not perceived as better when they are presented in foil.

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 percent. For the manufacturers this means: They can set stronger purchasing incentives if they sell organic products in packaging made of cartons. „But even if the likelihood of purchase increases when organic products are packaged in cartons: Consumers are therefore not significantly more willing to pay a higher price,“ is another result of the study.

„Since consumers usually see product and packaging in context, it makes sense to package organic products sustainably. However, this has happened 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 consistently continue the sustainability promise they make with their products until they are packaged,“ explains Christian Schiffers, Managing Director of FFI, which represents the interests of more than 60 companies.

Dr. Melanie Bowen from Justus Liebig University will present the representative study at FachPack on 26.09.2019.