Organic brands must embrace a holistic approach to ethical trading to avoid losing valuable product sales, according to a report from FFI, the German Carton Association and Pro Carton.
The consumer study found that in the majority of categories examined, a carton is regarded as of higher quality as well as being more sustainable than plastic packaging. This perception was consistent across gender and age.
Survey respondents were asked to rate the quality perception of plastic and cartonboard packaging on a scale of 1-7 for both organic and conventional products. Plastic packaging scored an average of 3.7, while cartons scored 4.46 for organic goods. This result was echoed in quality perception of packaging for non-organic goods, with plastic packaging scoring an average of 3.73 and cartons 4.34. Consumers rated cartonboard packaging above plastic in terms of quality, particularly for organic products.
The quality perception of what was inside the packaging also increased with the use of cartonboard. Survey respondents gave organic products wrapped in plastic an average ‘quality’ rating of 4.10 out of 7, but those packaged in cartonboard a rating of 4.65. Cartonboard-packaged products were also rated more credible than those in plastic, scoring an average of 4.82 out of 7 compared to 4.13. Importantly for retailers and brands, the result of the increased quality perception of products in cartonboard packaging was that purchase probability also increased with cartonboard packaging – from an average of 3.91 to 4.42.
Tony Hitchin, General Manager of Pro Carton said, “These results confirm a long-held assumption that shoppers prefer organic products that are packaged sustainably. The study clearly underlines the direct association between perceived product value, desirability and the type of packaging. It also highlights that shoppers consider the product and its packaging to be one unit and are frustrated when the packaging appears to be less valuable than its contents. This is an important lesson for brand owners and retailers. Less appropriate packaging devalues the product in the eyes of the shopper.
“This study also reflects the results from one published last year by the Soil Association that revealed the overwhelming majority of shoppers (67%) expect organic products to be packaged in more environment-friendly packaging than non-organic. The evidence in support of cartonboard packaging is now overwhelming and something brand owners – particularly those with organic products, cannot afford to ignore. “The argument for organic brands to switch to cartonboard is certainly compelling. It fits with overall brand values and ethos because it comes from trees grown in sustainably managed forests, making it not only renewable, but also fully recyclable and biodegradable – the perfect example of a circular economy.”