Coronavirus has changed many facets of our lives – from what we eat to how we greet each other; when and how we shop, even.
The pandemic is also causing many consumers to re-assess their priorities when it comes to how they view, and interact with, packaging, particularly due to concerns about their own health and safety.
Food packaging hit the spotlight as consumers read stories claiming growing evidence that food packaging is transporting SARS-CoV-2 across international borders. Fortunately, experts say they believe the risk of developing Covid-19 from handling these products remains extremely low.
But is sustainability taking a back seat to the heightened concerns of hygiene and health?
Ipsos’s white paper, ‘Clean, Green and Affordable’, written by Ian Payne, Greg Clayton and Alex Baverstock, looks into this and explores how food packaging will involve “balancing competing tensions” – including sustainability, hygiene, and value – post-pandemic.
The interesting findings in this paper highlight the strains that the Covid-19 crisis has generated between sustainability, hygiene, and value.
Many consumers are facing pressures on disposable income, so the issue of sustainability risks being deprioritised, despite a willingness to engage with what’s considered to be the right thing to do for the environment.
Sustainability certainly remains relevant. But can manufacturers stay on the path to sustainability while consumers visit stores less, shop online more, and are currently near-obsessed about hygiene?
One of the conclusions is spot on. Specifically, ’product and packaging development will need to equally cater to the ‘new normal’ demand for strict hygiene, the immediate restrictions on household expenditure as well as the long-term societal recognition for sustainability’.
According to the authors, those companies which can continue to drive better environmental outcomes in the face of reduced consumer confidence and increased sensitivity to hygiene have an opportunity to build their reputations long-term.
Such thinking could also prompt innovation with a view to mitigating risks to personal health as well as protecting products from contamination.
Communication is key. Food and beverage makers and retailers may need to devote more time and resources to reassure consumers that sustainability and safety needn’t be in conflict.
At the outset, I wrote that consumers believe that Covid-19 can be spread by boxes and packages received from other countries.
Well, it’s important to communicate the reality to consumers, not least so the focus can be on where the real risks of transfer are.
- Rodney Jack, editor, Food & Drink Technology.
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