6 min read

Growing Sustainably

Growing Sustainably

The demand for sustainable packaging is nothing new.

For over a decade, brands and companies have been investing their resources into finding the best alternatives to hard plastics and non-biodegradable materials that harm the environment. Sustainable packaging and ethically made or sourced products is becoming the #1 concern for some consumers.  

Now more than ever, shoppers are thinking twice at the moment of truth: stopping to ask themselves "do I need this?", not because the price tag is too high, but because their own growing conscious tells them to think about the impact purchasing this specific product could have on them, and also the environment. Buying ethically sourced goods and items, re-using containers, and, as ever, recycling, are slowly but surely becoming the benchmarks brands will need to clear before shoppers even think about buying their products.

The fact of the matter is, if brands want to stay relevant, they need to "go green" as much as possible, as soon as possible.
Close up of a recycle garbage bin logo at Pershing Square in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Gary Chan / Unsplash

Here at shopnosis.io, we were curious to see if  "going green" would be worth it for food brands. Changing packaging and sourcing tactics is a major investment for brands and some worry how this would (if at all) affect their bottom line. We got to work comparing the effectiveness of two POSMs for a confectionery brand: one POSM was regularly branded and the other was heavy on ‘more sustainable packaging’ messaging.

Our mission was simple: could a sustainability-promoting POSM impact purchase patterns?

It really can.

So what did we find out?

1️⃣ For starters, the sustainability visuals increased brand visibility at shelf – foot traffic to this part of the aisle was increased

2️⃣ Higher brand engagement when sustainability was promoted

3️⃣ Overall higher brand penetration rates when sustainability visuals were present

Millennial and Gen Z women (ages 18-34) were the driving force in these shopper behaviour changes; they are the ones who still do the most household shopping for families and they are demanding companies to deliver environmentally-friendly goods.  

What can brands and retailers do to help?

Change to the way people shop is coming, albeit slowly. However, it would behoove brands and retailers to get ahead of the curve and be ready when sustainable packaging and sourcing becomes the total norm. Today, there are a multitude of avenues brands could take in their mission to go green: everything from 100% recyclable packaging to bioplastics is in the works.

Below we've complied a list of just some of options brands and retailers have when it comes to sustainability:

1. Returnable/ Reusable Packaging

This concept is nothing new: in the early part of this decade, returnable and reusable packaging was all the rage. Now, the trend has made a comeback and many stores are offering their customers discounts and loyalty points when reusing or returning product packaging.

Some brands even offer to ship their products in reusable and returnable containers/bottles, with the intention of the consumer returning the packaging for a refill. While it is a big ask for customers to go that extra mile, this trend is slowly picking up pace, and more companies are seeing a demand for this policy.

Reusable PUNK IPA bottles

🏆 Best practice: BrewDog has partnered with Loop to introduce returnable glass bottles in selected UK stores. Each bottle comes with a humble £1 deposit, which you will get back once you’ve returned your empty bottle.

Buy BrewDog beers including Punk IPA, Dead Pony Club and Jack Hammer. BrewDog merchandise and beer gifts available online.

2. Bulk / Dispenser Filling

Like the concept above, this one is not a novice idea. There have been wholesale and bulk stores around for decades with a loyal following. The people who have adopted this wholesale type of shopping have seen what a big impact this can make on the enviornment, and their wallets.

The trick here would be for brands to negotiate with their retailers to have them install such dispensers within a grocery store. For now, only a small number of retailers provide a small number of items to be bought in bulk: mainly dry cereals, fruits, nuts and pastas. This trend is catching on quickly with consumers; even smaller grocery chains are beginning to provide shoppers with bulk buying options.

Asda Refill Zone

🏆 Best practice: Asda is rolling out refill centers with as much as 100 different products accross the UK, in an effort to remove 3 billion pieces of single use plastic from its business by 2025.

ASDA Refill Station – The future of retail sustainability? - Mike Anthony
Retail refill stations are being tested by many supermarket chains. They are a brilliant innovation - but how many shoppers will use them?
Further reading: Asda Refill Zone from the shopper marketing perspective

3. "Zero Waste" Packaging  

"Zero waste" packing is closely aligned to reusable packaging. The idea here would be that instead of the consumers providing their own refillable containers, brands would be the ones to sell their products in such items in the first place. The idea is that nothing the brands would sell, would go to waste.

This would take the burden off shoppers in supplying their own reusable containers and further place the onus on the brands to provide a true, start-to-finish, sustainable cycle.

zero waste food collection
Photo by Jasmin Sessler / Unsplash

🏆 Best practice: The Paper Bottle Company, or Paboco, is the Danish firm behind development of the paper-based container. Goal is to create a 100% recyclable, plastic-free bottle capable of preventing gas escaping from carbonated drinks.

Coca-Cola company trials first paper bottle
The test is first step towards all-paper bottle that can withstand pressure from fizzy drinks.
Further reading: Can paper bottles handle carbonated drinks?

4. Bioplastics

In recent years, there has been a boom in the demand and the supply of bioplasics. This type of packaging is made from renewable materials such as starch, proteins, and polylactic acid.

The one of the most common bioplastics used is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and even though it can take up 450 years to completely decompose, that's still a heck of a lot better than petroleum based plastics, which don't biodegrade at all.

Hey, it's not a perfect science. While a few companies are racing to improve the decomposition rates, there's still a way to go.

What's cool about bioplastics is that even though they are made of raw food materials, they do not compete with food supply. Bioplastics come from discarded food parts through processing, for example, rice hulls or grain husks.

5. Post-Consumer Recycled Resin

What is old is new again!

The idea behind this concept is that companies gather recycled (namely) plastics and use them to create (almost - depending on the product) 100% recycled 'new' containers / packages. This concept so far is being used to make water bottles, films and other containers.

Companies who have adopted this system of sustainability have seen an uptick in the numbers of their customers who now make the conscious choice to first, buy recycled plastics, and second, to continue recycling themselves.

Another situation on some random gas station. This time the security wasn’t bothered by someone photographing the place ;)
Photo by Pawel Czerwinski / Unsplash

While there are many other tools being developed to aid the shopper in making the "green" transition, these concepts and more seem to be the ones that are on the fast-track to becoming the most long-lasting solutions to our sustainability problem.

What's important to remeber is, is that companies and brands are making these changes because the customers demand it. Going Green for brands, companies and retailers is a big step, but it's becoming obvious that it is a step worth making.

Shopnosis can help you with measuring impact of sustainability efforts on brand sales, and fine tuning point of sale sustainability communication and creatives.  To find out how going green can impact your bottom line, contact info@shopnosis.io for more information.