It turns out people actually care about food waste — or at least that’s what they say.

New research from Mintel shows that four in five (80 percent) U.S. food shoppers agree reducing food waste is as important as reducing packaging waste. And, in an effort to limit waste, half (52 percent) of consumers prefer to buy foods with minimal or no packaging.

As they look to extend the life of the food products they buy, 81 percent of consumers say they would choose resealable packaging over non-resealable packaging, and more than half (54 percent) would pay more for packaging with added features such as being resealable or portion controlled, with three in 10 (30 percent) often reusing food packaging for other purposes.

Consumers still don’t recycle as much as they could

However, recycling food packaging is far from a universal behavior, as just two in five (42 percent) consumers report recycling most of the food packaging they use.

A lack of clear communication on labels may be a contributor to the relatively low recycling rate, as one quarter (25 percent) of consumers agree that it’s not always clear which food packaging is recyclable. Further, only 13 percent of consumers make an effort to avoid foods in packaging that cannot be recycled, according to Mintel.

“Our research shows that reducing food waste is top of mind for consumers. This presents opportunities for food brands and retailers to address these concerns through innovative packaging and product messaging,” says John Owen, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. “The prevention of food waste can be positioned not only as a good way for consumers to save money, but also as a way to work toward reversing the growing food waste trend through conscious consumption.”

Single-serve packaging remains popular

With snacking on the rise among on-the-go Americans, single-serve food packaging is growing in popularity. In fact, 36 percent of consumers are interested in packaging that allows food to be eaten on the go, while one quarter (23 percent) often buy individually portioned packs.

When it comes to the more perishable food items purchased, smaller packages appear to be the way to go as they can lead to less food waste.

Indeed, Mintel research reveals that more than half (53 percent) of consumers agree fresh produce spoils before they can eat/use it and two in five (41 percent) would pay more for vegetables that come in single-serve packages. What’s more, 56 percent of consumers would be motivated to select one food product over another if its packaging better prevented food from going bad.

Consumers want to see what’s inside

Consumers are also interested in taking a more “eyes-on” approach when food shopping: 38 percent agree they would be motivated to choose one food product over another if the packaging allowed them to view the contents

As revealed by Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), food packaging with a cut-out window accounted for 12 percent of all new US carton-based product launches in the first five months of 2016, up from 8 percent in 2013.

“Package innovation is playing a key role as food retailers respond to an ongoing shift away from the traditional three sit-down meals a day in favor of snacking and on-the-go eating,” Owen says.

He adds that there are ways for brands to capitalize on these findings.

  1. Single-serve: Package products in single-serve portions, which capitalizes on ever-evolving eating occasions.
  2. Transparent packaging: Incorporate transparent packaging to further build trust and increase purchase confidence.

As highlighted in Mintel’s 2016 Global Packaging Trend Phenomenal Flexibles, flexible packaging is no longer considered a compromise for brands as demand for single-serve packaging grows and consumers associate flexible pouches with being modern.

In fact, 34 percent of consumers view flexible pouches as “modern,” compared to two in five (40 percent) consumers who perceive glass packaging as “old-fashioned.”

However, despite its antiquated image, consumers are more likely to agree that glass is reusable (49 percent) and effective at retaining freshness (38 percent).

And while flexible pouches are seen as more innovative and portable (44 percent), consumers are much less likely to view the packaging as being reusable (11 percent) or retaining freshness (21 percent) when compared to glass.

“While the need for portability is forcing some brands to forgo glass for more convenient packaging options, glass hits on the trend of package reusability, and is considered visually appealing to many consumers,” Owen says. “As such, brands that use glass packaging should market their products with a second life for its package in mind.”