The trend for sustainability is heading in just one direction. According to a recent YouGov poll, 46% of people in the UK feel guilty about the amount of plastic they use, which is motivating them to consider changes in their behaviour – including paying more so companies will find alternatives to single-use plastics. Yet just one trip to the supermarket will tell you that the issue is a complex one. For example, you’ll still find mushrooms in non-recyclable plastic trays, sealed with non-recyclable plastic film, right beside the loose mushrooms. The packaged items are on sale because there’s a demand for them. It’s a simple as that.

The key question, given the absence of any legislation on the horizon like the revolutionary plastic bag charge, is when to jump. Of course, sustainability costs money. But many brands have seen the rewards of choosing more sustainable options, whether it’s fully recyclable packaging, the use of recycled materials or processes that result in a reduced carbon footprint. These tend to be businesses whose brand values are aligned with such a stance. Innocent is a prime example. The company has championed the use of recyclable plastic for almost two decades and has undoubtedly made its now 100% recyclable packaging a selling point.

Easy when your target audience is young parents, whose primary mindset is passing on a better world to their children. But what about the rest of the industry? As ever, it’s a matter of balancing cost and benefit. As a general rule, the more premium your product, the more receptive your consumers may be to environmental messages and the more likely any price hike will be tolerated – applauded, even. If you supply to retailers, it’s also more likely that a sustainably packaged product will be chosen over a non-sustainable counterpart, all other things being equal.

Every product and business is different and has its own unique challenges and opportunities. With the right blend of skills in your team, you can find the perfect solution for yours. Sustainability is a fast-changing landscape. Increasing demand means more and more manufacturers of packaging and packaging materials are offering sustainable options. Adding NPD and marketing people at the top of their game to scope, research, explore feasibility and finally develop new solutions could be key to boosting your bottom line. If it’s something you haven’t yet considered, we can help get you there. Or, if you’re already a sustainability icon, we can help keep you there.

Leanne Cliffe – NPD, Process Development & Packaging Specialist

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