Green Waste: Is Our Sustainability Content Being Missed?

A new study suggests consumers aren't seeing on-packaging sustainability messages

A new study suggests consumers aren’t seeing on-packaging sustainability messages

As content writers, we’re always thinking of new and creative ways to promote the sustainability efforts of our clients. On-package messaging is perhaps the hardest. The limited space and competing visuals of branded products makes writing engaging copy that also communicates a serious message a tricky proposition. Yet new research reveals that even our best efforts might be going to waste.

While most consumers admit that sustainability influences their purchases, most aren’t noticing sustainability branding on the packaging, according to a new study by QuadPackaging (QP) and Package InSight.

The research examined whether or not shoppers’ behaviours are influenced by a visual sustainability rating system placed on the front of packaging.

Ninety-two percent of the study participants did not notice sustainability logos on the packages despite 53 percent of participants saying that a simple rating system would impact their purchase and over 40 percent claiming sustainability influences their buying decisions.

“These results are not surprising if you take into account the barrage of logos, seals and stamps found on consumer package goods claiming some form of sustainability,” said Paul Nowak, senior director of sales strategy and business development at QP, a division of Quad/Graphics. “Consumers have become numb to all the messaging on packaging which hinders the penetration of sustainability claims.”

Package InSight, which studies package performance, consumer attention and shelf impact, conducted the research in Clemson’s retail lab. QP and Package InSight collaborated to create generic packaging for food, beverage and health categories and a sustainability logo that replicated an inspection or grading concept – similar to the A-B-C grading of restaurants and the idea of validation of that grade by a larger industry association (e.g. Craft Brewer Seal).

Participants “shopped” in a typical grocery store experience using mobile eye-tracking –the latest in biometric technology.

“People buy with their eyes,” said Dr. Julie Rice, associate director at Package InSight. “Using the eye-tracking technology in this study allowed us to provide insight into what draws an observer’s attention and cognitive process; in this case, there was little interest in the sustainability logos.”

QuadPackaging and Package InSight instead recommend that companies focus more on integrated marketing campaigns to educate customers about the efforts they are making and what their sustainability claims mean.

“It might be important to your brand to include these logos, but you don’t need prime packaging real estate – awareness and education are more important to get through to consumers,” recommended Nowak.

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