Packaging Challenges: Sustainability & Consumer Impact

Explore packaging challenges, sustainability efforts, and consumer impact in embracing eco-friendly and plastic-free solutions

Packaging Challenges: Sustainability & Consumer Impact

From greenwashing to sustainability, packaging has faced significant challenges in recent years, yet its role remains pivotal in every sale. Packaging is the initial consumer encounter on a retailer’s shelves. As Sajid Manzoor, founder of Imperial Food Packing, points out, “Packaging must attract consumers and instill confidence in the product's quality.”

Creating packaging that engages consumers visually, aurally, and tactilely is a complex task, integral to the essence of fine food. It doesn’t just reflect brand values; it propels premium products off the shelf, irrespective of their price tag.

However, the industry confronts numerous new hurdles, with sustainability at the forefront of packaging concerns. How do retailers deliver top-quality products that benefit both consumers and the planet?

The Sustainability Dilemma

The food industry heavily relies on plastic, from wrapped produce to beverage bottles and snack packaging. Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, notes, “Plastic dominates packaging due to its inexpensiveness, subsidized by the colossal Big Oil industry."

Almost five million tons of plastic are utilized annually in the UK, with nearly half used for packaging. Alarmingly, plastic packaging constitutes almost 70% of plastic waste. Plastic doesn’t decompose and can persist for centuries, polluting land and water bodies. Hence, the food and beverage sector strives for sustainable alternatives.

To combat the plastic deluge, the UK Government introduced the Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) in April 2022. This tax incentivizes companies to align with global environmental goals. Rob Janering, VAT partner at Crowe, explains, “PPT aims to induce behavioral changes, encouraging reduced plastic use in packaging."

Additionally, legislation like Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) aims to shift environmental costs associated with a product’s lifecycle from consumers to producers. However, its implementation was delayed until 2024, disappointing environmental groups.

Despite the delay, EPR will proceed, challenging packaging manufacturers to innovate sustainable solutions. Sajid emphasizes, “The journey to Net Zero necessitates minimal environmental impact in packaging. Our customers seek affordable and secure supply chains meeting organic or similar provenance assurances."

Looking Ahead

The packaging industry burgeons with eco-friendly alternatives to plastic. Sian advocates, “Plant and fibre-based packaging present exciting possibilities. Xampla’s plant protein-based film, for instance, offers a fully degradable plastic alternative without needing waste infrastructure. Materials like algae, rubber, cork, and mycelium are available today and need collaboration with big brands for accelerated adoption."

Sajid emphasizes the need for brand flexibility in a changing retail landscape. “Consumers now demand environmentally friendly, affordable solutions in hybrid retail spaces."

One such brand, Blue Goose Coffee, was founded to combat environmentally harmful packaging. Co-founder Lex Thornely asserts, “We launched with plant-based, plastic-free packaging, steering clear of aluminium due to its environmental impact. The heightened global awareness of plastic waste strengthened our commitment to plastic-free pod alternatives."


Keywords

Packaging challenges , Sustainability , Consumer impact , Eco-friendly alternatives , Plastic-free solutions

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packaging

plastic

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packaging

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environmental

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