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Shoppers say 'green' packaging is 'not my problem'

Shoppers show little willingness to make the effort on environmentally friendly packaging, looking for manufacturers and government to take the lead.

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In the just completed wave of shopper research on environmentally friendly packaging conducted by Perception Research Services (PRS), fewer shoppers agreed that consumers should be responsible for recycling packaging than in 2009 (38% vs 42%), with Midwest shoppers showing the least inclination (only 30%).

And while more shoppers expect environmentally friendly packaging to cost more (36% vs 15% in 2008), fewer report a willingness to pay for it (51% vs 57% in 2008), and a majority (59%) say that environmentally friendly packaging should be at no additional cost to the consumer.

 Ironically, while few indicate they would like to choose more environmentally friendly packaging (28%), nearly half (48%) think manufacturers should produce more of it; and 35% think government should mandate stricter environmental standards for packaging.

Their reliance on manufacturers’ efforts may derive from an awareness of the steps that have been taken, as half of the shoppers polled have noticed companies making claims about environmentally friendly packaging. And of those, half have noticed more of these claims in the past six months.

 Fortunately for manufacturers, these shoppers feel their motives are primarily virtuous as over half say companies are making these efforts for reasons having to do with helping the environment (e.g., reduce waste, save resources, make the world a better place, etc), while very few attribute these actions to such self-serving interests as selling more product or increasing profits. And few think companies overstate the environmental benefits of their packaging.

Shoppers’ reported behavior patterns also suggest that they want someone else to do the work in this area, as nearly half say that seeing a “made from recycled materials” claim makes them more interested in buying the product, a significant increase from 2009 (48% vs. 39%). This more passive activity contrasts with the fact that very few (only 17%) say they check to see if a package can be recycled before buying a product. And, one-third report that they generally do not recycle packaging, consistent with the 2008 level.

 “It’s becoming clear that while consumers may voice concern for the environment, most appear unwilling – at the moment – to make any major sacrifices to make a difference. They’d rather rely on manufacturers to provide products and packaging that they can feel good about, without changing their behavior, giving up performance, or paying more,” according to Jonathan Asher, senior vice president of PRS.

“Manufacturers have had the impression that they needed to be in synch with consumers’ environmental concerns and fit with the emerging lifestyle of ‘going green,’” Asher continues. “Our findings suggest that rather than follow consumers’ lead, manufacturers must actually be at the forefront, making it easier for shoppers to buy the products they prefer while also feeling good about the environmental impact, and making as little sacrifice as possible. It’s a tall order, but if delivered, will be highly rewarded.” Three waves of this research were conducted in 2008, 2009, and 2010, across the U.S., among over 1,000 primary household grocery shoppers aged 18 to 64 per wave. 

Since 1972, Perception Research Services has specialized in consumer research to help marketers connect with shoppers and close sales. The company annually conducts more than 800 custom studies worldwide to guide, assess, and improve packaging and shopper marketing efforts, including qualitative research, on-shelf assessments, in-store, online and in-home studies.

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