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When 'green' fails at the cash register

Consumers are proving that it isn't enough for packaging to be demonstrably better for the environment than the packaging used for a competitive product.
FILED IN:  Sustainability  > Strategy
Timing economics and ease of use enter the picture as well. For example it's been reported that the source-reduced plastic bottles for New York-based Lever Bros. line of ultra-concentrated liquid laundry detergents was being "de-emphasized" in company marketing efforts. That support was said to be shifting to fully-diluted detergents that come in larger bottles. "No matter how green you are in the marketplace if your consumer prefers something else the consumer is the ultimate arbiter" Lever's Melinda Sweet told Plastics News recently. She indicated that declining market share for the concentrated detergents caused the company to re-evaluate its marketing objectives. Sweet could not be reached for comment. Detergent competitor Procter & Gamble Cincinnati OH publicly expressed dismay and indicated it would try to get Lever to reconsider. However it also had a similar experience although its package was not as highly touted as the Lever Bros. line of
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concentrates. A couple of years ago P&G's Folger's coffee division developed a bottle of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) for pressure-packed fresh ground coffee with a special screw-on measuring cup. Its environmental benefits were detailed in a booklet attached by a neckband. "We went full-tilt with the information flow on that package" says a P&G executive. "We felt we were delivering a package that had added value for the consumer via the measuring device resealability barrier properties and recyclability." Although it was introduced with some promotion into test markets it eventually was withdrawn a year ago or longer. "It didn't produce what we expected it to. The coffee consumer didn't seem to value what this container offered and we couldn't afford the upcharge on the package" the P&G official reported. Lever's change however is considered a major setback in what has been a steady flow of packages exhibiting source reduction or including recycled content. Considering the current implementation of state mandates regarding source reduction or recycled content its timing also appears curious.

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