Driving Towards Sustainable Packaging: What Grocers Can Do

Neha Ghai
March 10, 2023
Driving Towards Sustainable Packaging What Grocers Can Do

At A Glance

  • Savvy grocers are laser-focused on sustainability as awareness among consumers continues to grow.
  • Packaging is an essential strategic component of sustainability.
  • Grocers must address multiple components throughout the packaging value chain.
  • This article explores five sustainable principles grocers must adopt to ensure eco-conscious packaging.

Packaging is omnipresent. Its presence in the food industry minimizes food waste and reduces product breakage at relatively low costs. It's essential for grocers to maintain the safety and hygiene of their products.

However, growing awareness about packaging waste in landfills and oceans has led to numerous debates on the harmful environmental impact. The packaging industry has grown and is poised to grow due to the expansion of new-age substrate markets.

Packaging is no longer about shopping bags and plastic bottles but a commitment to sustainable solutions. It is a strategic piece in a company's commitment to sustainability.

The grocer's imperative to implement eco-friendly packaging is not only about the sustainability in packaging but also rethinking the packaging processes and systems. Below is a look at the drivers reshaping grocers’ views around sustainable packaging.

Driver's Shaping the Winds of Change

Shopper’s Sensibility: The global consumer sentiment surrounding environmental harm impacts the wallet share of sustainable products at grocers. Sustainable solutions and dynamic pricing can change consumer preferences.

According to Grocery Doppio’s "January 2023: State of Digital Grocery Performance Scorecard," 37% of shoppers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products, and 23% want grocers to communicate their sustainability efforts. There is a renewed focus on health and wellness, and shoppers are looking for freshness and portion control which grocers can offer through their packaging.

E-commerce Delivery: The way to the shopper's wallet is digital. The rise in e-commerce, personalized offerings, and shopper convenience has placed an increased focus on packaging requirements designed for last-mile delivery.

Sustainability: The heightened awareness about the planet's resources and societal and environmental impact has led to more packaging innovations.

Integration: Technological innovations have accelerated automation in the food industry, including at various stages in the supply chain. Effecting packaging change will require integration across verticals and a womb-to-tomb attitude.

Considerations for Grocers

Eco-friendly packaging is critical to sustainability efforts but also offers a competitive advantage in a crowded digital marketplace. Adopting green packaging and branding uniquely and innovatively allows companies to provide an out-of-the-box experience that attracts and retains customers. Grocers can enjoy enhanced brand reputation and customer loyalty by identifying gaps in the packaging value chain and propagating solutions.

Specifications: The customer's preference can determine the packaged carton and food box specification related to size and quantity. Different color codes across categories like frozen food, beverage, dairy, and fresh produce can improve system processes for segregation, sorting, and collecting packaging materials.

Product Representation: Each offering has a story to capture, and customer sentiment can be drawn upon by appropriately labeling the packaging material. Biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable plastic are a few examples that can improve product recalls for environmentally conscious consumers.

Customized Convenience: High-quality packaging that protects its contents leaves a positive impression on the shopper and can lead to repeat business. Specialized packaging, e.g., adjusted portion controls for meal kids, add a personalized touch and help build consumer loyalty.

Safety and Freshness: Perishability is a concern for grocers. Packaging design solutions to maintain the freshness and hygiene of high-quality products can increase sales.

The 5R Strategy

Grocers must adopt a holistic approach to sustainable packaging to respond to changing consumer preferences, increased digitalization, and the adoption of online shopping. The principal focus areas in packaging can be assimilated by adhering to the 5R’s strategy detailed below.

Refresh: Leverage consumer insights and industry best practices to adopt technological innovations and reimagine packaging design. According to Grocery Doppio's research, consumers are willing to pay 11%-17% more for sustainable products. Manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors should showcase their commitment to sustainability. Walmart’s Project Gigaton encourages suppliers to redirect their efforts and optimize package design to support new-age recycling initiatives.

Reuse: As per Grocery Doppio’s "State of Digital Grocery: The Media Monetization Opportunity," subscription models are an important growth opportunity for grocers. Grocers must develop reusable packaging components, promote long-term solutions, cut costs, and increase efficiency. Identifying and streamlining logistical infrastructure for subscription reuse models adds value to a grocer's revenue model.

Recycle: Packaging amounts to waste at every step in its chain, from product manufacturers, suppliers, package converters, distributors, and finally, the retailer. Transforming the waste into a source of raw material is critical to environmental change. An alternative to realign with the goal of recyclability is using bio-based, plant-based, and chemically treated materials that are biodegradable or compostable.

Packaging can be designed to use materials that are effectively waste-managed through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). One retailer, Erewhon is the launch partner for biodegradable bottles produced and developed by startup Cove Water. The plastic-free bottles are made of natural polymers, known as PHA’s, that are completely biodegradable by microorganisms.

Reassess your Packaging Solutions Provider: Being ahead of the curve, creating a difference, and personalizing the shoppers' experience can be done by choosing the right packaging partner. Selecting a partner requires an intensive review of its capabilities and services; Grocery Doppio's "8 Companies Leading the Charge with Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Packaging" can advise you.

Reduce: Incorporate strategies and designs to reduce packaging waste. Product preservation, hygiene, and safety are paramount for grocers, and an emphasis on lowering waste by optimizing packaging needs to be a critical piece of the design process.

Improving packaging solutions can drive new revenue streams and enhance grocers' customer experience and brand recall. By leveraging customer insights, new technological innovations can be integrated into the logistical chain to differentiate the experience for shoppers.

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