Food Packaging Consumer Insights

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Food Packaging

Consumers are increasingly considering the way their food is packaged, particularly with an eye toward the amount and utility of packaging. Considerations for packaging go beyond quantity: packaging serves a variety of functions, from the core purpose of protecting food from damage, tampering, and premature spoilage to the ability to improve convenience via cook-in-packaging or resealability. Sustainability of packaging is also increasingly on the minds of consumers, as climate change and waste issues receive more media attention.

Additionally, the coronavirus pandemic led to more people eating more of their food at home and the amount of packaging waste involved became even more evident:

  • Food purchased for home consumption via retail outlets uses more packaging per serving because it is sold and shipping in smaller quantities.
  • Consumers who are eating more food at home as opposed to having their meals prepared by others are interacting with packaging more often during the course of their daily lives.

While food suppliers are also interested in packaging that attracts consumers’ eyes as they walk through retail stores, consumers generally are not consciously aware of it.

COVID-19 Pandemic Drives Changes in Food Shopping & Consumption Patterns

The COVID-19 pandemic had a notable impact on the food packaging market in 2020, both in terms of the foods being packaged and the types of packaging used. Sharp declines in foodservice sales and stay-at-home recommendations led to a shift away from restaurants and an increase in cooking at home. Interest in food that can be stocked in a freezer or elsewhere became a higher priority for more consumers. An increase in snacking and heathier eating also changed the types of food purchased and corresponding packaging needs.

Sustainability Is Increasingly Important to Consumers

Sustainability continues to be one of the highest profile stories in the food packaging market, with producers of the different types of packaging jockeying to be seen as the most environmentally friendly choice. This is driven in part by consumer awareness of the amount of waste generated by their household food consumption, coupled with increased media coverage of sustainability challenges.

However, the definition of sustainability continues to be problematic and often is focused on only one or two packaging parameters instead of total lifecycle environmental cost. While consumer awareness of this complexity is increasing, the issues involving waste – how the packaging is disposed of – and how it protects the food remain in the front of consumers’ minds.

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