Consumer Concerns about Sustainability Extend to Packaging

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Sustainability has become a part of the daily conversation, with more and more consumers looking for ways to minimize their carbon footprint. Food-related businesses have taken a central role in the discussion, which focuses primarily on ingredient sourcing and limiting food waste.

Another sustainability concern is food packaging--something retailers, restaurants and food producers have made efforts to address.

According to Technomic’s 2019 Packaging Trends and Outlook report, consumers feel strongly about environmentally friendly food packaging. More than 70% said they considered it important for restaurants to provide food in environmentally friendly disposables, and about the same number said they believed restaurants should do more to achieve that. Given that, it’s important that grocers hoping to stay competitive with local restaurants be mindful of how they’re sending prepared foods home with shoppers.

Consumers are well aware of the issue. A 2019 study by the Grocery Manufacturers Association found that more than three-quarters of Americans think the federal government should intervene to reduce packaging waste. Some 86% of Americans agree plastic and packaging use is an environmental crisis. In general, according to Global WebIndex’s 2019 Sustainable Packaging Unwrapped report, 64% of consumers prefer packaging that incorporates recyclable materials, and nearly half don’t want overpackaged products.

With COVID-19 fueling additional demand for prepared foods and meals, the problem of sustainable packaging is likely to escalate and attract even more attention.

In recent years, a number of supermarket chains have committed to adopt environmentally friendly containers and packaging.

Kroger recently pledged it would switch to 100% recyclable, compostable or reusable packaging for its private brands by 2030. The company plans to complete a survey to determine its current impacts, step up the recycled content in packaging and increase awareness among shoppers about how to manage packaging at the end of its use.

Last year, PCC Community Market delis in Seattle switched to compostable containers, from deli containers to hot and cold drink cups and sleeves, soup containers, napkins and pizza boxes. PCC introduced compostable trays in its meat and seafood departments and compostable straws and utensils five years ago.

A new Meijer neighborhood grocery store that opened in Royal Oak, Mich., early in 2020 was among the first stores in the Midwest to offer only sustainable bag alternatives. The store opened without single-use plastic or paper bags at checkouts; customers are encouraged instead to either bring their own bags or purchase durable, reusable and recyclable plastic bags for 10 cents each.

TC Transcontinental Packaging recently launched a website section surrounding sustainability and flexible packaging resources. It provides background on the benefits of flexible packaging, among them its positive impact on the environment.

The updated content also explains TC Transcontinental’s 2025 commitment to create sustainable packaging--a vision of a circular economy for plastic, where plastic never becomes waste. The components of that commitment include innovation; promotion of 10% post-consumer recycled content across all plastics; and collaboration with industry partners to boost reuse, recycling and composting rates for plastics in the communities where the company operates.

This post is sponsored by TC Transcontinental Packaging