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A Tetra Pak survey on environmental behaviour in mature and emerging markets has helped to inform the company’s R&D efforts, says Libby Costin.
In recent years, we have witnessed a growing number of partnerships between businesses, governments and society, with the aim of protecting finite natural resources. One trend that underpins this collaborative action is the rise of the environmentally conscious consumer, demanding more from businesses and governments to help them to live their lives in a ‘greener’ way. It’s a trend that is more and more visible globally, but it has particular importance for emerging markets.
Tetra Pak recently conducted a survey of 7,000 global consumers and 200 industry stakeholders to identify some of the drivers behind increased environmental awareness, and inform our R&D activity. It showed that there are differences between mature and developing markets in terms of environmental priorities and behaviours. For example, although only 39% of consumers in emerging markets regularly sort and set aside waste for recycling (compared to 75% in mature markets), they seem to be more environmentally active in other ways.
The research indicates that the lower rate of recycling in developing markets is due to the lack of infrastructure to help consumers recycle. That’s something Tetra Pak is already trying to address: we cover all parts of the recycling process, from package design and technology for recycling, to advocacy and consumer awareness. Our work in this area helped to increase the global recycling rate of used Tetra Pak cartons by 10.1% between 2011 and 2012.
The survey also revealed that consumers in developing markets are almost twice as likely to have purchased a product with environmentally sound packaging, compared to people in more mature countries. They are three times more likely to have purchased an environmentally friendly product even if it costs more than a less environmentally friendly alternative. This could be because consumers in developing markets have more trust in the quality of ‘green’ goods compared to regular ones: 32% perceive them to be of higher quality, vs 12% in mature markets.
Actively seeking out environmental information labels on packaging and gathering information about environmental issues is also considerably more important for consumers in developing markets than in mature markets. They look for environmental logos twice as often as those in mature economies (47% vs 23%), which is also reflected in their trust in green logos (61% vs 43%).
While this might seem surprising at first, it’s worth considering that consumers in fast-growing markets such as India, China and Brazil often rely upon, or are highly connected to, fragile ecosystems which are under pressure. They are more likely to witness first-hand the impact of environmental degradation on their country or community, so it’s logical to assume that this will lead to a stronger feeling that something needs to be done about it (or even the threat of it).
Producers should also take note of the fact that more consumers now recognise and understand environmental labelling. According to our survey, over a third (37%) of consumers are now regularly searching for environmental logos, with 54% of them trusting the logos now, versus 37% in 2011.
In our case, we are aiming to ensure that 100% of the carton used to make our products comes from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified sources. But this is not enough: we must also ensure that consumers are aware of this so that they can make informed purchasing decisions. Therefore, we have been working to increase the number of our packages that carry the FSC logo. In 2012 the number of FSC labelled packages delivered to our customers rose by 40% to 26.4 billion cartons (18.4 billion in 2011). This represents 15% of all our sold packages, and by the end of 2012, customers in 39 countries around the world had access to food in Tetra Pak cartons carrying the FSC label.
It’s worth nothing that consumers in mature and developing markets do share some similarities. Around half of them claim they’re willing to pay an extra 5% for milk in environmentally friendly packaging, although it remains to be seen whether this will be will translate into actual purchasing behaviour.
The survey also shows that there is a strong appeal among consumers, particularly in developing markets, for renewable materials – a preference which has been driven by the development of new technologies. For instance, the use of bio-based materials ranked as one of the most important environmental trends shaping the future of beverage packaging.
This message underpins our goal to provide a package made purely from renewable materials. Together with our partner Braskem in Brazil, we recently pioneered the first bio-based caps sold on the market. Following their initial rollout in Brazil and Peru, we also launched the cap in Norway in June 2013. In addition, we plan to further expand the renewable content of our package by signing a contract to buy LDPE (plastic coating) from bio-based sources. Trials of this new bio-based coating will start in 2014 – another innovation that should help us to meet the demands of environmentally conscious consumers, wherever they happen to live.
Libby Costin is the Global Portfolio Marketing Director for Tetra Pak, a multinational food packaging and processing company.