Packaging innovations to watch

Packaging innovations to watch

I spoke at the Sustainability in Packaging conference last week and got a chance to sit in on several presentations.  I continue to be impressed with the quality and speed of the innovations that make the stuff that holds the stuff we use more sustainable.  It’s obvious, too, that any company who makes anything that relates to a package — whether it be the front-end guys making ingredients that ultimately get fabricated into packages, the brands in the middle, or the companies responsible for collection and recycling on the back-end — the industry has embraced sustainability big time and isn’t backing away.  I’ve been to several conferences on this topic, and they’re all well attended and getting bigger every year.

And that’s a very good thing —  not just for the planet, but for consumers and brands.  Our ongoing Eco Pulse study tracks the role of packaging in a consumer’s green product buying decision and it’s CRITICALLY important on several fronts:

  • What the package says steers a consumer to decide whether or not the product is green and, therefore, whether or not to buy.
  • Recyclability and recycled content in a package are high on consumers’ lists of care-abouts as they make a buying decision (it can be a tiebreaker between two different brands in a mature product category).
  • In some categories — and it does vary wildly by category — greener packaging can trump other green product attributes as the leading reason to buy.

Knowing all this — and knowing that we see lots of consumer bashing of plastic (regardless of the recyclability of it, the reduction of it, the bio vs. chemical makeup of it) and a lot of confusion and frustration around what’s recyclable and what’s not — I was particularly impressed with a new packaging innovation Seventh Generation is rolling out. It’s a laundry detergent bottle in two pieces:  an internal plastic pouch, which can be recycled in the same bin where you recycle plastic grocery bags and an external shell made of molded paper pulp.  This is REALLY cool on a few consumer fronts:

–  Imagine a sea of plastic detergent bottles in your grocery store’s laundry aisle, and then picture a brown, paper bottle peering out at you from the shelf.  Which one would you notice? And as a mainstream consumer whose entire view of the environment is that plastic is bad and recycling is good, do you think this might get you to try a funky brand you don’t really know much about.  YES!

– Some laundry bottles are made of a type of plastic that’s difficult to recycle (sometimes they’re Number 3 plastic, which you often can’t recycle curbside). At some recycling centers a bottle that actually could get recycled doesn’t because the guys doing the sorting assume it doesn’t belong.  With Seventh Gen’s innovation the bulk of the package — the outside container — is easily recycled, leaving only the interior, which is small, to contend with.

– I presume — though I don’t think this was stated — that this innovation would allow Seventh Generation to sell refill pouches.  So I could use my molded pulp shell several times and just refill the middle.

So keep your eyes peeled for this innovation on a shelf near you — and on all the other innovations coming to all of us.  We’ll keep tracking which ones are resonating with consumers and give you the full report.

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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