Nielsen study tracks what consumers would be willing to trade for environment

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. More than half of consumers in the United States would give up all forms of packaging provided for convenience purposes if it would benefit the environment, a recent study by Nielson discovered.

Among the packaging options Americans were willing to part with: packaging designed for easy stacking/storing at home (58 percent); packaging that can be used for cooking, or doubling as a re-sealable container (55 percent); and packaging designed for easy transport (53 percent).

While the study found that U.S. consumers are slightly more likely to give up packaging for convenience purposes than the average global consumer, it also suggested that more Americans are concerned about hygienic packaging than the rest of the world. One in ten U.S. consumers is not prepared to give up any aspect of packaging for the benefit of the environment, Nielsen reported.

“As global concern and awareness for the environment continues to grow, consumers worldwide are demanding more action from retailers and consumer packaged goods manufacturers to protect the environment,” said Shuchi Sethi, vice president of Nielsen Customized Research. “While eco-friendly packaging might not be the top priority for shoppers today, it’s certainly a growing priority the food industry cannot ignore.”

According to studies conducted using Nielsen’s proprietary pack research system, packs@work, food retailers and manufacturers do strive to meet consumer demand for more eco-friendly packaging solutions that minimize impact on the environment. “In more eco-aware markets, including the U.S., there is an increasing expectation of packaging with minimal environmental impact, although for most consumers, this doesn’t necessarily translate into a willingness to pay more,” said Sethi. “What most consumers expect is packaging that provides an added ‘feel eco-good factor’ by minimizing environmental impacts.”

“We are starting to see some backlash against plastics that are not recyclable, or whose chemical composition may lead to tainting or degradation of product quality,” Sethi concluded.

According to another Nielsen study of 65,000 U.S. households' environmental attitudes:

  • More than half of U.S. consumers claim to recycle cans, bottles and/or newspapers all the time, with 20 percent doing so “most of the time.”
  • Roughly 40 percent of consumers will sometimes think to look for products with less packaging.
  • Nearly 80 percent of consumers make a point of combining shopping trips to save gas most, if not all of the time.
  • Sixty percent of consumers buy used or refurbished products to reduce waste and materials consumption at least some of the time.
  • Nearly 60 percent make an effort to buy fruits and vegetables at a local farmers’ market.
  • Approximately two-thirds turn down their thermostats to conserve fuel most or all of the time.

Nearly 7,000 consumers in 47 markets in Europe, Asia Pacific, the Americas and the Middle East responded to Nielsen’s packaging and environment survey. Of those, nearly 250 consumers were from the U.S.