Sustainability top concern among shoppers

Tuesday, 19 January, 2021

Sustainability top concern among shoppers

Growing concern for sustainability and eco-friendly packaging has resulted in a shift in consumer behaviour, with environmental concerns driving purchasing decisions, according to new research.

The research by intelligence platform Toluna, which surveyed 1035 Australians between 3–9 December last year, showed that for one in five shoppers sustainability now defines their choice of retailers, brands and products.

It also showed that younger shoppers are quicker to drop brands that do not meet their eco-preferences, with 25% of 18- to 34-year-olds having stopped using a brand in the last six months due to sustainability concerns. Although lower, 21% of 35- to 54-year-olds and 9% of over 55s also indicated the change in behaviour, showing that sentiment is changing across the board.

When it comes to shopping sustainably, the most important factors for Australian shoppers was that packaging is recyclable (69%), that there are biodegradable elements (55%) and that the products themselves are made sustainably (54%) and from locally sourced ingredients (54%). While ethically sourced ingredients (37%) and ethical employment practices (32%) were also important, making sustainable purchasing decisions is a clear priority for Australian shoppers.

Packaging concerns

An overwhelming majority of Australians (82%) say it’s important that products are packaged sustainably. This sentiment is strong across all age groups, with very little difference between 18- to 34-year-olds (85%), 35- to 54-year-olds (81%) and over 55s (81%). However, while concern is high overall, the younger demographics were more likely to take action and drop brands due to sustainability concerns (25% for 18- to 34-year-olds vs 9% over 55s).

Drilling down into why packaging is a concern, respondents cited overall packaging recyclability (61%) and the threat to wildlife and the environment (60%) as the biggest issues. The amount of plastics used (58%), the sheer amount of packaging (56%) and compostability (43%) were also cited as key concerns.

Respondents were asked to compare how important sustainable packaging is to them now, compared to how they felt at the beginning of 2019. The responses showed a sharp increase in concern, with two-thirds (63%) of respondents stating that sustainable packing is more important to them now than two years ago.

Brooke Donnelly, CEO, Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) said it was fantastic to see that consumers feel passionate about sustainable packaging.

“One of the most powerful things they can do to drive change on this issue is to vote at the cash register and support brands that are doing the right thing,” Donnelly said.

“Here in Australia, businesses and governments have committed to implementing the 2025 National Packaging Targets, which includes making all packaging 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. I’d encourage all Australians to ask their favourite brands what they are doing to meet the 2025 Targets and support businesses that are taking practical action to implement them.”

Contrary to what might be expected, COVID-19 has not affected shoppers’ thoughts around packaged fruit and veg, with 85% of respondents stating they’re just as comfortable, if not more comfortable, buying loose groceries now as when compared with before the pandemic.

Will Caruso, Senior Marketing Scientist and Packaging Expert at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing, said the findings highlight consumers’ focus on the environmental impact of product packaging.

“Sales of brands who ignore eco-preferences might not decrease in sales next year (2021), but in the long term brands need to look for more sustainable ways to package their products. It is clear from this research that sustainability packaging is becoming a category norm that should not be ignored.”

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