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Do Consumers Really Care about Eco-friendly Packaging?

Just how important is eco-friendly packaging to consumers? It’s not just “tree huggers” that are giving green products priority in their buying decisions these days – recent research shows that a growing number of consumers are looking for recyclable and sustainable products and packaging.

Perception Research Services, a firm specializing in consumer research for marketers, has been tracking not only what consumers say, but also what they do, when it comes to environmentally friendly packaging for the past four years.

The firm’s latest findings from a 2011 survey of 1000 consumers reveal a growing desire among shoppers to select environment friendly packaging, coupled with increasing confusion about how best to do so.

Over one-third of those surveyed (36%), were more likely to choose “green” packaging. That’s a surprising 29% increase since the last survey just a year before. Not only that, half of those consumers were willing to pay more for eco friendly packaging, and 25% were even willing to switch to a “greener” brand.

Products that consumers complained had the least earth friendly packaging were snack foods such as chips, frozen foods, candy and coffee.

Over half of those consumers surveyed said that seeing an “environmentally friendly“ claim on a product’s packaging made them more inclined to buy that product. Packaging that was labeled “recycled” or “recyclable” had the biggest positive effect on buying behavior, with 23% of shoppers reporting that they check for recycling symbols or information. This was especially true of younger shoppers.

So where does the confusion lay? One in five respondents said most packaging didn’t include enough environmental information. Many of those surveyed also complained they were confused by all of the different “green” terms, and are not sure which eco friendly packaging claims (Biodegradable? Sustainable? Recyclable?) are best for the environment.

Perception Research concluded that shoppers really do want to help the environment, but they need help to do so effectively and consistently. The biggest take-aways for marketers and manufacturers?


  • Look for ways to reduce your company’s impact on the environment, including the use of environmentally friendly packaging.


  • Provide specific information about the packaging’s environmental benefits (e.g. “One ton of Stone Paper® saves 20 trees”) to potential buyers.


  • Explain claims like “Sustainable” or “Photodegradable” used on your green packaging.


  • Prominently display recycling symbols and the words “Recycled” and/or “Recyclable” on your packaging.


We’re seeing a great opportunity for manufacturers to provide truly value-added packaging to their target shoppers by making it more environmentally friendly,” Perception’s executive Vice President Jonathan Asher, told the LA Times. Asher warned that, based on their research, manufacturers that label smaller, thinner packaging as eco-friendly to disguise cost reductions only test shoppers’ goodwill.

This comes as no surprise to many major companies, including Wal-Mart, Hewlett Packer and General Electric, who have seen the writing on the wall and been promoting themselves as green businesses for some time now.



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