July 20, 2021 /Consumer

Conscious consumerism and the future of packaging design

Back in March, World Consumer Rights Day took place. The focus of the day was to see how we can tackle plastic pollution. With conscious consumerism increasingly on the rise, this dilemma is critical for packaging design.  Over the last few years brands have been faced with the challenge of finding plastic-free options. 

The war on plastic has been heavy in the news. Yet just recently, it was announced that Canada now considers plastic to be legally toxic. This change in classification is part of Canada’s Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), which empowers the government to establish a set of proposals to combat plastic pollution. In the UK, The Guardian reports that campaigners are putting the government under pressure to ban the export of plastic waste and to invest in a domestic recycling industry. This pressure is reflective of the increasing consumer sentiment surrounding the wellbeing of the planet.

Conscious consumerism set to become mainstream post Covid19

In a study conducted by McKinsey&Company of over 2000 UK and German participants in April 2020, two-thirds stated that they believe Covid19 has provided a silver lining for the environment, with 60% of people expressing they are now going out of their way to recycle and purchase products in environmentally friendly packaging. Our client, The Y Code is a brand that is tapping into the market for male customers wanting to purchase self care products with sustainable packaging and materials. This will be achieved by sourcing recycled materials and offering refillable solutions to ensure that there is circularity with both the products and packaging’s lifespan.

So what does this mean for the future of packaging design?

Whilst packaging design has served as a means to generate brand value, it is imperative for companies to reflect upon its environmental value simultaneously. Gone are the days whereby industry leaders asked the question ‘should brands embrace environmentally friendly packaging design’. Now the question is a matter of ‘how can they embrace ethically conscious packaging design?’. At Sheridan&Co, we have worked extensively with both food and beauty brands. These industries typically create products that use packaging. Yet with the demand for conscious consumerism when it comes to packaging, both of these industries have to ask serious questions as to how they can move forward to create genuine and sustainable solutions.

The problem with creating sustainable packaging is that it is often a very complex process. When it comes to design, we have to consider materials and how they were originally created. We have to consider the lifespan of the packaging and how to either minimise waste or reimagine it to be a brand asset. There is of course the cost of the packaging to consider. Whilst brands work on strategies to reimagine their packaging design, one way to approach the process is by considering packaging as a R&D tool. In a climate of conscious consumerism, brands are constantly under scrutiny. Quick and ill-thought out attempts to be environmentally driven can be deemed as  ‘greenwashing’ if loopholes are to be discovered later down the line.

A future of sustainable packaging pilots?

Recently, Burger King debuted a sustainable packaging pilot, which comes as an expansion of the brands reusable container program. The pilot is being tested in Miami locations and includes different approaches towards being more sustainable. This includes reducing the overall amount of material used, utilising recycled and recyclable materials and finally including bio-based replacements of materials. In the brand’s efforts to deliver environmentally friendly solutions within their packaging design, they have redesigned Whopper wrappers so they are reducing paper use by 13 and 34 percent.  They are testing a drinks lid that eliminates the need for a plastic straw. Straws kept will be made from plant based materials and such a change could see that the food chain cuts back on 500 million single-use straws. Burger King is also including cPLA cutlery and napkins made out of 100% recyclable fibres.

Burger King’s efforts demonstrate a brand that acknowledges their responsibility to the environment yet it is also a process. When it comes to establishing sustainable solutions, brands must be transparent about their efforts towards the end goal of zero plastic. It is clear that Covid-19 has immensely impacted consumer attitudes shaping the future packaging design and the packaging industry. However, by creating packaging pilots, it is an opportunity for brands to share with customers driven by conscious consumerism their ethical and creative process.

Get in touch to talk about your packaging design to target a more conscious consumer.