What Packaging Type do Consumers Prefer?

In March 2020, a European study of consumers preferences, perceptions, and attitudes towards packaging was commissioned by the Two Sides organisation. Two Sides is a not for profit global initiative promoting the unique sustainable and attractive attributes of print, paper and carton packaging. It has over 600 members spanning the print, paper and packaging value chain including forestry, pulp, paper, packaging, inks and chemicals, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes and postal operators.

Packaging Attitudes Research Will Assist a Packaging Redesign

This research will be useful reading for any businesses who export to European countries and are currently undergoing a packaging redesign. The report gives clear and concise survey results on sustainability issues that should be considered when redesigning packaging, such as :

-consumers attitudes to the various packaging materials (paper, glass, metal, plastic)

-levels of knowledge about packaging recycling levels

-recognition of various recycling/sustainability logos and symbols

-consumer behaviour that is motivated by sustainability

-online shopping packaging preferences

Having a good knowledge of the findings below will help a packaging designer know which material is preferred by consumers, which aspect of the packaging sustainability to focus on and how to motivate consumers to chose that product over a competitors’ product with less sustainable packaging.

The research was carried out online by independent research company, Toluna. 

Packaging Preference – Survey Size

5,900 consumers were surveyed in the following European countries – Austria (500), Denmark (350), Finland (350), France (1,000), Germany (1,000), Italy (1,000), Norway (350), Sweden (350) and the UK (1,000).

What type of Packaging do Consumers Prefer – Key Findings

Packaging Preferences:
• Paper and cardboard packaging rank highest with consumers for sustainability attributes including home compostable (72%), better for the environment (62%) and easier to recycle (57%).
• Glass packaging is the preferred choice for factors including Reusable (55%) and better protection of products (51%).

Consumer Behaviour:
• 70% of consumers are actively taking steps to reduce their use of plastic packaging.
• 48% of consumers would avoid retailers that are not actively trying to reduce their use of non-recyclable plastic packaging.
• 58% of Europeans believe non-recyclable packaging should be discouraged through taxation.

Online Shopping:
• 66% of consumers prefer products ordered online to be delivered in paper packaging rather than plastic packaging.
• 73% of consumers prefer products ordered online to be delivered in fitting packaging, i.e. not too big for the size of the actual product.

Recycling Perceptions:
• Paper/cardboard packaging is considered to be the most recycled material, with 30% of consumers believing the European recycling rate to be over 60%
(85% of paper and cardboard packaging is recycled*).
• 23% of consumers believe glass has a recycling rate in excess of 60%. (Glass packaging has a recycling rate of 74%*).
• 17% of consumers believe that metal has a recycling rate in excess of 60%. (Metallic packaging has a recycling rate of 80%*).
• Plastic is considered to be the least recycled packaging material. Although 12% of consumers overestimate the recycling rate of plastic, believing it to be over 60%.
(Plastic packaging has a recycling rate of 42% in Europe*).

Environmental Labels:
• 64% are aware of the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®), and 55% are aware of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification™ (PEFC™).

FSC logo
Europeans consider FSC slightly more important than PEFC.

PEFC logo

• The Mobius Loop (recyclable) is the most recognised label in Europe, with 86% being aware of it. It is also rated the most important label by consumers.

Mobius Loop logo

The Shopping Bag:
• Consumers ranked paper bags highest for environmental factors such as: recyclability (52%), compostability (47%) and made with renewable materials (43%).

• Cotton/canvas bags were ranked highly on physical characteristics such as: premium feel (59%), durability
(55%) and attractiveness (52%).

* Eurostat, 2017

You can read the full report here.