Welcome to the 13th issue of the Tetra Pak Index, which, in the wake of COVID-19, explores a very different world to the one we looked at a year ago.
The pandemic, an unprecedented event affecting communities worldwide, has disrupted the status quo, accelerated trends and created a new landscape of consumer concerns and needs, redefining the ground rules for the industry and creating new paradigms.
Not surprisingly, COVID-19 is the number one concern for consumers worldwide, evidenced in our recent global research. Against this backdrop, economic worries have seen a sharp upturn, reflecting widespread uncertainty about the impact of the pandemic on the economy, particularly employment.
Interestingly however, food safety has quickly moved up the list of consumer priorities. It is now seen as a major issue for society by more than two-thirds of respondents. Consumers believe that improving food safety is not only the responsibility of manufacturers, it needs to be their first priority. And with dwindling trust levels, consumers are looking for transparency and reassurance that this priority is being addressed. Many now say they want to know everything they can about a product’s provenance and production process – highlighting a communication opportunity for brands.
At the same time, concern for the environment remains strikingly powerful. True, it has been relegated to the number two spot of global consumer concerns by COVID-19. But it is still substantially ahead of everything else, with more than two-thirds of consumers believing that we must change our habits quickly to mitigate further environmental impact. In this context, sustainable packaging remains key, rated a top expectation from manufacturers by more than half of respondents.
While both these priorities – food safety and the environment, hold their place of prominence, a deeper investigation, especially in the context of food packaging, suggests new dilemma. For instance, when describing the role of packaging, consumers indicate that ensuring food safety is the main purpose, far higher than environmental factors such as recyclability and renewability.
This dilemma is also reflective of the current industry reality. While food packaging plays a critical role in feeding the world, it also impacts the earth’s climate and its limited resources. This should not be the case, and we should not have to choose between the two. And food packaging can indeed play a strong role in bringing about this harmony.
The pandemic has reinforced the fact that our world needs high-performance packaging, with a longer shelf life that increases food access and reduces food waste, that is recyclable and reduces the climate impact through low-carbon materials and ambient distribution.
The food and beverage industry therefore has a unique opportunity to deploy food packaging that meets all these requirements. At Tetra Pak, we are on a journey to create the ultimate sustainable food package – a carton package that is made solely from responsibly sourced renewable or recycled materials, is fully recyclable and carbon-neutral, allowing ambient distribution and meeting food safety requirements.
Bold initiatives such as these are the need of the hour, as the industry needs to step-up towards the twin goals of protecting our planet’s ecosystem and meeting the human need for food. Only then can we be a part of building a sustainable future for the next generation, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19.
I hope this year’s Index provides some valuable insights and learnings around the current consumer mindset, as we look forward to working with our customers and industry stakeholders to realise the opportunities it presents.
President and CEO, Tetra Pak