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Sustainable Packaging Trends for 2015: All About Millennials


By Elisabeth Comere

As packaging innovators, it is in our best interest and in the interest of our customers to monitor emerging trends in the industry.

I compiled three distinct ways packaging could evolve in the coming year which have been primarily influenced by millennials, the largest generational group of socially-aware consumers globally.

1. Reaching millennials

Millennials, generally aged between 15 to 35, make up about a third of the global population, and they are significantly influencing market trends. This purpose-driven group uses its power to drive social and environmental change across economic sectors by demanding accountability from major corporations and big brand names. They are also the largest generational group in history and, on average, they spend approximately $600 billion annually. Results show that total is expected to rise to $1.4 trillion in the next six years.

Research released by brand marketing firm Oliver Russell indicates their purchasing choices are influenced by companies that exercise positive social and environmental best practices across the entire supply chain. “Millennials view taking care of themselves and the environment as one and the same,” wrote the authors of the Oliver Russell Brand Amplitude Study.

With on-the-go lifestyles, this generation is looking for healthy and convenient food and beverages that come in packages that are easily opened, resealed for later use, and feature recyclability and other green qualities. In fact, 3 out of 4 millennials would choose soup from a carton over a can for just these reasons. Healthy and eco-friendly products are dominating the purchases in this market, but millennials also look for transparent information about a product’s sustainability credentials, with claims supported by third parties.

2. Transparent recycling chains

According to a global study commissioned by Tetra Pak, 89 percent of consumers prefer to buy products in packages they know to be recyclable. But according to a recent ISRI study, 33 percent of Americans have doubts about recycling, as they are not always certain if an item is recyclable, and 6 percent say they do not believe the items they set aside for recycling are actually recycled. (This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) from Nov. 3-5, 2014 among 2,013 adults ages 18 and older.)

For this reason, we need to establish better transparency within our recycling chains in order to communicate the goals, challenges and accomplishments of existing recycling programs. One way to alleviate confusion and skepticism is to incorporate the transparent reporting structures that measure the efficiency and effectiveness of recycled materials and disclose the chain of custody of how these materials are recycled. This is in addition to clearly labeling products so consumers can easily identify how to properly recycle them.

3. Move from "clean" to "clear" labels

“Clean" labels refer to a branding approach that emphasizes a product’s wholesomeness of ingredients, lack of artificial ingredients and sometimes a lack of common allergens. “Clean labeling” relies on the use of terms such as “natural," “organic" and “minimally processed." The lack of universally-accepted definitions around these terms, however, has led to growing skepticism and confusion in the marketplace.  In reaction to this, consumers and consumer advocate groups are pushing for more clarity in labeling, hence better transparency about the product and packaging composition.  A recent study by Innova Market Insights found that clear product labeling is the top trend to likely impact the global food and beverage industry in the new year.

The importance of adhering to the clear labeling approach holds equally true for packaging manufacturers. In a survey of 6,600 consumers in 10 countries, conducted by Euromonitor for Tetra Pak, almost half of the respondents said they find on-pack logos helpful in understanding the environmental impact of beverage packages. One example by which Tetra Pak is leading in this field is by displaying FSC labeling on more and more of its packages made of FSC-certified materials, thus providing consumers with a third-party assurance that the paperboard used to make cartons comes from responsibly managed forests and other controlled sources.

Stay tuned for three more packaging trends tomorrow on TriplePundit! 

Elisabeth Comere is responsible for environment at Tetra Pak – the world leader in packaging and food processing solutions. She joined the company in 2006 as Environment Manager for Europe where she helped define and drive Tetra Pak’s environmental strategy and contributed shaping recycling for cartons in Europe. Since 2010, she is based in the U.S., focusing on advancing the Tetra Pak’s commitment to sustainability in the U.S. and Canada and is involved in various industry and customer packaging and sustainability initiatives.

3p Contributor

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