December 10, 2020  |  Expertise

Starting Small with Sustainable CPG Design

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Consumer values are constantly changing, and it can be particularly hard for CPG brands to keep up.

One trend, however, appears to be here to stay: sustainability. Survey data indicates that the percentage of shoppers around the world who are willing to pay more for eco-friendly or sustainable products increased from 49% in 2011 to 57% in 2018 (source).

So, what does this mean for brands, and what should they do about it?

This statistic suggests two things: First, that brands have an opportunity to capitalize by implementing more sustainable practices. In doing so, they may incur additional costs – but they may also be able to charge more for their product, and create a more meaningful relationship with consumers in the process.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, it suggests that brands that do not demonstrate some form of commitment to sustainability may lose market share to competitors who do, even if the competitor is more expensive.

For CPG brands, the easiest place to show consumers commitment to sustainability is through packaging.

Packaging is the face of a brand, so infusing packaging with eco-friendly design makes a brand’s commitment to sustainability unmistakable. Fortunately, brands that don’t have the budget (or manpower) for a complete overhaul can take smaller steps towards sustainable design that won’t break the bank.

Here are some small-scale sustainability strategies employed some of the world’s largest brands that can be leveraged by smaller brands as well:

Enhance Existing Packaging

Moving towards more eco-friendly packaging doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. P&G shows that significant change can be made through adding to what you already have – specifically, adding a digital watermark. These watermarks help recycling centers sort plastics more efficiently so that they can re-enter the economy more quickly (and at a higher re-use quality) (source).

Focus on One Thing

For brands with multi-piece packaging, progress can be made by addressing a single element. Heineken UK is taking this approach by eliminating plastic rings and shrink wrap from products. Instead, they are offering 100% recyclable and compostable cardboard toppers. These changes will effectively remove 517 metric tons of plastic from Heineken’s supply chain (source). Long-term, this translates to up to 517 metric tons of plastic potentially spared from ending up in a landfill.

Consider the Material Source

If a brand must use plastic, they should consider supplementing with recycled plastic. Coca-Cola is exploring producing bottles with 25% recycled marine plastic, marking the first time that food-grade bottles have been produced using this kind of post-consumer recycled material. Once rolled out, this new technology could be leveraged by many brands. In Coca-Cola’s case, it will enable them to retain their iconic bottle and dodge a complete material shift while still addressing an existing problem with the ocean’s plastic pollution (source).

Still not sold on shifting to sustainable packaging? Another recent study found that 50% of sales growth among CPG brands from 2013 to 2018 came from sustainability-marketed products, even though those goods account for under 17% of the market (source).

Brands should recognize sustainable packaging as an opportunity and take the first steps now to maximize future growth.