Unwrapping sustainable packaging: How CPG brands are balancing the needs of the planet, consumers

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Unwrapping sustainable packaging: How CPG brands are balancing the needs of the planet, consumers

Related tags Futureproofing the food system Sustainable packaging Packaging and labeling Unmetered Unmetered

To meet ESG goals and promote a greener supply chain CPG companies are investing in sustainable packaging, but shifting from one material to another is seldom straightforward, which will be the focus of an upcoming session at the 2023 FoodNavigator-USA Futureproofing the Food System free-to-attend virtual summit.

In the “Sustainable Packaging: Balancing the Health of the Planet & People​” session, on Nov. 16, 2023, at 11:45-12:30 CT, a panel of leading industry experts will discuss the challenges and opportunities of creating more sustainable packaging (register here​). To discuss the topic, FoodNavigator-USA senior correspondent Ryan Daily will moderate the session and will be joined by: 

  • John Hewitt​, VP of Packaging Sustainability at Consumer Brands Association
  • Camille Herrera,​ Sustainability Manager at Driscoll's of the Americas
  • Andrea Fraboni​, VP of BASES & Neuro Design at NIQ
  • Kevin C. Kenny​, Senior VP of Compliance Services at FoodChain ID

To learn more about this session and others, visit the FoodNavigator-USA Futureproofing the Food System​ event page and register today​. 

Getting the balance right with sustainable packaging 

CPG brands creating more sustainable packaging types not only need to reduce the overall environmental impact of their products, but they need to do it in a way that still provides consumers with an enjoyable experience, Herrera told FoodNavigator-USA. 

"For us, Driscoll's is really looking at a two-prong strategy to innovation and packaging sustainability. First off, our packaging actually has to be functional. If it doesn't preserve the fruit, if it doesn't deliver the fruit to customers such as the quality that the customers want to buy it — that's food waste — and so [we] really think about how to balance functionality with these other metrics of sustainability." 

CPG brands also need to focus on how packaging reinforces a brand's value proportion, Fraboni told FoodNavigator-USA.  

"The sustainable pack still has to do all those responsibilities ... [but it also] has to break through on shelf, it also needs to be easy to differentiate, it also needs to reassure the shopper, [and] it still needs to be functional when you get home. And so, I think what we're seeing as sustainable packaging is coming out more in the marketplace is manufacturers really trying to get that balance right." 

Reducing consumer confusion around recycling

Beyond the logistics of creating a more sustainable packaging, CPG brands face another challenge in engaging consumers and reducing confusion around recycling.  

In a 2022 survey of 2,000 US consumers, 64% of respondents said they know what types of plastic they can recycle, but 61% incorrectly said that flexible plastics (grocery bags, bubble wrap, etc.) can be recycled in curbside bins, according to environmental service company Republic Services​.

This confusion on how and what to recycling is creating challenges to recycling, and ultimately, how CPG brands can use recycled material in their packaging, Hewitt told FoodNavigator-USA. 

"Part of the challenge is there's nearly 10,000 local recycling programs in the United States, and they all have their own set of rules, and as you can imagine, it creates a patchwork that lends itself towards consumer confusion. We did a poll ... in late spring that found that more than 70% of Americans feel report to recycle right at home as part of their daily lives."  

As consumers go about their day, Consumers Brands Association also found in the survey that the rate of purported recycling drops, as consumer confusion around what can be recycled at work, the gym, or during a vacation increases, he added. Consumer confusion and incorrect recycling practices are contributing to low recycling rates, where only 5-6% of recyclable material is recycled, according to a The Last Beach Clean Up and Beyond Plastics report​.

To learn more about how the food and beverage industry is responding to these challenges, tune into the "Sustainable Packaging: Balancing the Health of the Planet & People" ​session on Nov. 16, at 11:45-12:30 CT, for more insight. Visit the FoodNavigator-USA Futureproofing the Food System virtual summit website for more details about the event and register today​. 

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