What consumers want

When asked to select from a list of future packaging innovations, the number one choice was protecting food for longer to avoid waste and maintain nutritional value, selected by 70% of consumers. Notably, this is the one option in the list which is relevant to both health/food safety and sustainability, demonstrating the potency of options that apply to both areas

This finding echoes separate Ipsos research, in which 58% of consumers said they would be willing to pay a premium for packaging that protects food for longer, compared with 31% for environmentally friendly packaging

Graph: Most relevant innovations in food and beverage production and packaging

The next most popular choice in our list also relates to the longevity of food storage, with 66% opting for intelligent expiry dates that signal whether or not a product is still safe to consume. Again, it’s notable that this is an option that’s relevant to two key areas: food waste and food safety.

Interest in better, smarter labels also comes across in our social media study, with some seeing current limitations as a “missed opportunity” to ensure better food safety, reduce food waste and also satisfy demand for greater transparency by communicating information about the origins of food.

Notably, while the top sustainability-specific choices come mid-way down the list of options, they still rate very highly (at 61% for no over-packaging and 59% for recyclability). Providing greater access to information on provenance is also popular. In our social media analysis, we found conversations arising from the combination of a need for greater food traceability following food contamination scandals, with the rise of blockchain as an enabler.

The world’s most sustainable food package

The COVID-19 pandemic, the rising dilemma around food safety and food waste, and increasing awareness of how supply chains work (and why they sometimes don’t) all open the door to a wider debate about sustainability and the role and design of packaging going forward.

While circularity is key to sustainability, it is not enough to focus only on “reduce, recycle and reuse”: it’s also important to consider the impact of the materials that are used in the first place. Emissions from the production of materials used for packaging alone are larger than global aviation or shipping, especially plastics, which account for 60% of this total.

Consequently, the ultimate sustainable package should be circular and minimise its impact on nature and the environment. In addition to being fully recyclable and supportive of an effective recycling system, it should be made of fully renewable or recycled materials that contribute towards carbon-neutral production and distribution. At the same time, it should be convenient and safe, enabling a resilient food system that can support the world’s growing population.

Tetra Pak is already on the journey to creating this package. To find out more, visit: www.tetrapak.com/campaigns/go-nature-go-carton/overview


Tetra Pak Index 2020, summary and conclusions infographic

Top ten takeaways infographic

woman wearing mask in grocery store

Summary video