- Packaging is important for seven out of 10 individuals, according to a new study by Shorr Packaging. The data showed these consumers read labels "always" or "most of the time." In addition, two-thirds of consumers who identified changes in their purchasing behaviors as a result of the pandemic said they will pay more attention to food labels and food packaging moving forward.
- Of the 1,128 people surveyed, 47% of respondents said they relied on packaging to inform their purchase of brands they were previously unfamiliar with during the past three months. Nearly 90% said they plan on purchasing those same food products again in the foreseeable future. Shorr said 58% of respondents were “likely” or “very likely” to purchase food products that clearly state the packaging is recyclable or reusable, while 28% are likely to re-purchase previously unfamiliar food products if it has a unique design.
- Packaging overhauls have been at the forefront for many companies with Nestlé pledging to spend 2 billion Swiss francs ($2.1 billion) on sustainable alternatives and packaging giants such as Tetra Pak launching innovative shapes to encourage new design, along with eco-friendly choices.
At the same time consumers are relying heavily on packaging to inform their decisions, the majority of consumers surveyed (64%) said they have felt "duped" or "misled" by the food packaging in items they’ve purchased. The Shorr survey further explored this reaction and found people are looking to ingredient labels, brand logos and claims phrasing for trustworthy information.
This finding is not new. Clear, straightforward labels have been a concern for years, and the effort to encourage them has reached all the way to one of the nation’s top influential governmental regulatory agencies. Several years ago, the FDA revamped the Nutrition Facts label to better highlight the quantity of sugar and added sugars in products as well as to emphasize the calories and serving size recommendations.
Currently, the FDA is wrestling with the undefined term "natural." Despite its nebulous definition, consumers unsurprisingly find it to be important. According to the annual Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council, more than 40% of people are influenced by the presence of this term on packaging. Likewise, the Shorr survey showed this term influences the purchasing behavior of 41% of individuals.
Natural as a concept is not simply relegated to the contents of a package. It extends to the package itself. Eco-friendly and transparent packaging are two trends that have increasingly captured the interest of consumers. Three-quarters of respondents to the Shorr survey noted they believed foods marketed as healthier and better-for-you should have sustainable packaging. The data also showed 46% are willing to pay more for food products that clearly state the packaging is recyclable or reusable.
Communicating health, trustworthiness and sustainability has only become more important for brands as e-commerce gains momentum. Now, this messaging must be readily visible from a package whose image is displayed in a thumbnail on e-commerce sites. With 51% of respondents from the Shorr survey stating they've used grocery delivery apps in the previous three months to purchase food items online, packaging has developed a new importance.
Manufacturers have already begun to respond to these changing packaging trends, which existed previously and have only been accelerated by the onset of the pandemic. Food industry companies are already offering edible wrappers or individually wrapped foods made from natural sources. Soy-based ink and compostable containers also have reached the market. Others have also switched to typefaces and simple brand presentation to lend an air of trustworthiness by borrowing design approaches typically used in reliable sectors like finance and law.
While how food tastes will always be paramount, data from Shorr and other studies shows packaging is and will likely continue to be a major factor that influences a consumer's buying habits. People are inundated with choices and their personal values are playing a bigger role in influencing their shopping habits. For companies that are looking for an advantage in the ultra-competitive market place, packaging could give them an advantage but they should be careful to do it fairly and accurately on bags, boxes and other items.