March 20, 2018 /Trend

The Future of Plastic in Retail

Consumers have never been more aware of the sustainability of products, and brands are now using their packaging as a platform to promote environmental awareness and positive change on a larger scale than ever previously seen.

One traditional material that has found itself under increasing scrutiny is plastic, which has become largely unfashionable as it conjures up images of gigantic landfill waste sites, and fish swimming amongst human rubbish such as plastic bags and bottles.

There is an expectation by consumers that brands should use their packaging to promote sustainable messages, as shown by Lush, a British ethical cosmetics company, whose existing packaging already contained some recycled plastic. Lush has partnered with Canadian organisation The Ocean Legacy Foundation, which has set itself the challenge of recovering 27 tons of rubbish from the seas surrounding Vancouver, in order to introduce ocean plastic into its packaging.

Ocean plastic presents an exciting opportunity for brands to engage with their consumers, as this material enables them to use the compelling narrative of the plastic’s history in order to convince the consumer of their commitment to sustainability.


Engaging with consumers and involving them in the drive towards sustainability is a winning formula for creating a brand loyalty.

Tech company Dell has adopted this innovative approach by creating packaging trays consisting of 25% recycled ocean substance, and these are supplemented by information designed to educate the consumer on the packaging’s journey from ocean to shelf, as well to ensure that it does not return to the sea.

In 2017, Unilever stated that a third of consumers are now buying from brands based on their social and environmental impact, which means that brands must place their focus on providing products that portray a sense of well-being, not just for the consumer themselves but for the wider social cause.

Procter & Gamble have stated that more than half a billion of their bottles sold in Europe by the end of this year will include up to 25% post-consumer recycled plastic. This is a brilliant idea as not only has P&G shown that they are conscious of the need to protect the environment but also they have responded to the needs of their consumers and are willing to innovate in order to keep up with their currently lifestyle demands.

The UK grassroots organisation A Plastic Planet takes into account the ecofriendly consumer tribe’s views by campaigning for the introduction of a plastic-free supermarket aisle. The benefits for consumers are significant; not only does this initiative give them wider access to more sustainable packaging substitutes, but they can also make choices based on their own principles.

‘With this in mind, we can cast our minds back to a consumer post exploring the rise of the new elite. This consumer prides himself or herself on their purchase behaviour that favours environmental awareness and social consciousness’.

Brands should look to innovate with their packaging, as mentioned previously in our Zero Waste article, in order to appeal to an increasingly environmentally informed consumer. Here at Sheridan&Co, we particularly love jerky brand Snact’s orange peel-esque compostable bags, and 1Rebel Gym’s sustainability program which sees the traditional plastic water bottles being replaced by stainless steel versions in an attempt to cut down consumption within the fitness industry.

This plastic-less world opens up an avenue for brands to look beyond the traditional plastic, in favour of alternatives which promote a sense of morality and environmental consideration.

We previously explored the rise of Conscious Brands and supermarket chain Marks&Spencer has initiated ‘Project Thin Air’. The project involved redesigning the packaging of over 140 of their snacks by limiting the amount of air contained in each packet, thereby reducing the amount of plastic required.

Brands are venturing into a future where plastic becomes redundant. How can retailers and brands prepare for this future?

Key Takeaways

How can your brand make changes to existing products and shop design in order to appeal to consumers who prioritise ethical credentials?

2018 is all about making a positive contribution to the environment- is your brand delivering a meaningful impact? Are you keeping up with this growing change within consumer lifestyle?

How can your brand trade on the plastic-less opportunity to deliver schemes and initiatives that will help achieve and maintain brand loyalty.