Brand Packaging

Editorial: Achieving Balance

April 23, 2008

Welcome to our second annual special issue dedicated to sustainability. As you can well imagine, our editorial team has spent much of the past few months immersing ourselves in this complex and critical issue.

As you turn the pages of this issue of BRANDPACKAGING, you will find a number of articles, each of which approaches sustainable packaging from a different angle. This is necessitated by the subject itself; there are countless stakeholders in the push toward “green packaging” and each comes at the process, and the end result, with a different perspective.

To me, the consumer’s role in achieving sustainability is critical. Though the initial impetus has come from retailers-well, one rather large retailer-in order for sustainable packaging to become a long-term priority, the consumer must be on-board.

So then the question becomes one of trade-offs: what is the consumer willing to potentially give up (performance, aesthetics, convenience) and how much additional product cost are they potentially willing to assume before sustainability loses its current level of priority?

A study conducted by Nielsen (www.nielsen.com) that speaks to this reality recently caught my eye. The study found that more than half of US consumers would give up all forms of so-called “convenience” packaging if it would benefit the environment, and that US consumers are slightly more likely to make this sacrifice than the average global consumer.

“In more eco-aware markets, including the US, there is an increasing expectation of packaging with minimal environmental impact, although for more consumers, this doesn’t necessarily translate into a willingness to pay more,” says Shuchi Sethi, vice president, Nielsen Customized Research. “What most consumers expect is packaging that provides an added ‘feel eco-good factor’ by minimizing environmental impacts.”

Sethi’s comments, and the Nielsen study, provide an excellent perspective for brand marketers as you move toward greener packaging. Know your target audience and how they interact with your packaging in the store, and at home. Understand what motivates them to purchase, and re-purchase. And most of all, try to strike a balance so that every step your brand takes toward sustainable packaging supports and enhances your brand promise. It’s an unforgivable pun, but appropriate nonetheless: Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.