Analyst Corner: Is Sustainable Packaging a Necessity or an Opportunity?

Experts estimate that 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans every day, over 150 plastic bottles litter each mile of UK beaches and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million sea birds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually.

These figures are absolutely shocking and there is no doubt that action needs to be taken and responsibility is shared across the entire food and grocery supply chain. Less plastic needs to be produced from the top and consumers need to be educated further on the importance of recycling.

However, is it just a necessity for suppliers and retailers to act in the war on plastic, or is there an ulterior motive/opportunity to capitalise on?

Shoppers are more aware than ever of the impact single-use plastic has on the environment and are actively trying to take action. The HIM Future of Convenience Report 2019 highlights that 70% of UK consumers are trying to reduce sin­gle use plastic such as Clingfilm and plastic straws. Here is the necessity – shoppers are cutting back and expect manufacturers to do the same.

Now for the opportunity - The HIM Omnichannel Barometer, that surveys 1,000 consumers every month, indicates that nearly 40% of consumers are willing to pay more for a product that has sustainable packaging. In contrast, only 23.2% said they would not pay more, with the rest unable to give a definitive answer. There is a considerable opportunity for suppliers to demonstrate their social conscious as well as drive greater sales value.

Suppliers are already making moves to reduce plastic from their ranges, with drinks firms opting for cardboard packaging or even glue instead of the traditional plastic ring binding. Also, this week Unilever unveiled a multipack for wrapper-free Solero ice lollies that cuts plastic use by 35% by using five compartments into which ‘naked’ lollies are slotted.

With shoppers actively trying to cut out single us plastics, is there an opportunity for manufacturers to premiumise plastic alternatives? Or will it alienate some shoppers?

What do you think?