Packaging With Simple Signals and Clear Language Desired
12/10/2023 Sustainability New Paths Design Start-ups Article

Packaging With Simple Signals and Clear Language Desired

The purpose of a new in-depth psychological study commissioned by the four food manufacturers Harry Brot, Milram, Rügenwalder, and Kölln is to clarify how sustainable packaging can be “intuitively understood and sold.”

Family business Rügenwalder Mühle and Berlin-based food start-up KoRo joined forces in December 2023 for a brand new range of dry mixes. Rügenwalder is one of the four clients of a new packaging study. Family business Rügenwalder Mühle and Berlin-based food start-up KoRo joined forces in December 2023 for a brand new range of dry mixes. Rügenwalder is one of the four clients of a new packaging study.

The Rheingold Institute, the brand and design experts from Red Rabbit, and the material and packaging technology specialists from Tilisco wanted to show each of the four clients of the study how the instrument of sustainable packaging design could generate competitive advantages in their product category, reports the Lebensmittelzeitung. According to the cooperation partners, they conducted 20 individual interviews with selected consumers and held eight group discussions with a further 60 people. The study makers particularly emphasize the “new, collaborative” character of their research. Another new aspect is that the four brand partners “actively supported” the group discussions and in-depth interviews “both personally and in terms of content”. As a result, the isolated packaging development still practiced in most companies has given way to “a permeable holistic approach” that can identify “solid development alternatives at high speed”.

As far as sustainable packaging is concerned, consumers in Germany are very differently informed and involved, says Birgit Langebartels about a key finding of the study. According to the Client Director and Head of Gender & Generation, for example, a lot of consumer goods packaging that is already recyclable today is not even perceived as such.

The topic is “overly complex”, which is why consumers who feel overwhelmed are looking for simplification, the psychologist continued. Above all, they want packaging that sends out clear and simple signals. At the same time, consumers, who are “under pressure from all sides to be sustainable,” do not want to accept any disruption to their usual everyday habits or any loss of enjoyable consumption.

Overall, the 80 people surveyed by Rheingold believe that food packaging should primarily serve the purposes of food and its intended use, such as a quick snack or a practical sandwich.

Sustainability as Added Value

Sustainable packaging, on the other hand, is downstream, i.e. not a direct purchasing decision, but rather a “nice to have”, the psychologist explains. In addition, consumers feel that they are already doing a lot for sustainability themselves.

Another result: although sustainability is not yet a high priority, it is becoming “more and more relevant”. Postulate: if packaging is intuitively experienced as sustainable this can lead to an additional enhancement of the product it contains as well as the overarching brand.

In such a case, for example, the contents are also perceived as “higher quality”. “Consumers find the topic of sustainability very complex,” says Jochen Matzer, Managing Director of Red Rabbit and founder of Food Harbour. If the packaging can be experienced as intuitively sustainable, this can become a USP and added value for the brand and product. According to the evaluation of the interviews and group discussions, the “intuitively sustainable” recognition signals that packaging can emit from the consumer’s perspective include “a rough, paper-like feel, muted colors, and simple seals or claims”.

Furthermore, according to the message addressed to food manufacturers, sustainability should be communicated on product packaging in a way that is “simple and clear”, “not too complicated”, “feasible and relieving” and “intuitively decodable”, among other things. “Experiencing in the group discussions and interviews how candidly, honestly, and emotionally the participants spoke about packaging made me realize how much simpler and easier to understand the signals need to be”, says Sonja Bähr, Packaging Analyst at Tilisco. According to her, the FMCG industry, retailers, waste management companies, and politicians are called upon to counteract the great ignorance on the shopper side about materials, separate disposal and recycling.