Packaging professionals know a product’s container is more than just that, but rather a key element of the marketing mix. However, there might be a discrepancy between what food and beverage packages are communicating and what consumers are actually experiencing, according to WestRock’s Packaging Matters study, which focuses on the impact of packaging on product satisfaction and consumer purchasing behavior.
“Pair that with the gap in trust between consumers and brands, big shifts in safety, sustainability and retail, and we find ourselves trying to navigate a complex marketplace,” says Steve Voorhees, CEO of WestRock Company.
Among the findings is the increase in consumer concerns about product safety. Largely attributed to more publicized food safety incidents and recalls, consumers are demanding more transparency. More than three quarters of consumers polled say they want the packaging of products to prevent tampering and contamination. This study also found that in addition to being concerned about what they eat, more consumers are paying attention to the packaging materials.
Sustainability is also growing in importance, with 98 percent of the surveyed consumers indicating it is extremely or very important to their view of a brand. Consumers say they want to see more sustainable materials used and sourcing to be responsible, but many of the companies are doing these things and failing to communicate them. The study suggests packaging could be employed to remedy this.
One company heeding this advice is Kingdom Fresh Farms with its recent packaging and website redesign. The new packaging directs consumers to the website for more information about Kingdom Fresh’s emphasis on food safety and sustainability as well as its new initiatives including using solar power, non-GMO verification and its line of organics.
As important as consumers rank sustainability, its return is diminished when it negatively affects packaging functionality. More than three quarters of consumers surveyed say packaging should preserve product freshness and guard against damage.
“Consumers value brands that balance sustainability and function. Brands should not use less packaging, but just the right amount of packaging—for the product, for the supply chain and for the retail environment,” according to the report.
Lastly, a possible future growth of online retailing could impact how food and beverage brands interact with consumers. In fact, 80 percent of packaging professionals polled say they need to have different online shopping strategies versus in-store even though approximately half say their current strategies are actually the same. When it comes to having a different online retail approach, the majority of brands are focused on appearance of the packaging online and using durable materials for safe shipping.