“Brands need to provide evidence of promises"
In this interview, Dr. Benjam Punchard, Global Packaging Insights Director at Mintel, offers tips on how to better communicate using packaging. He also advises packaging to include information about the product's energy consumption.
Be transparent and take a stand: This call to brand manufacturers is not entirely new. Why do you think it is so important in 2023?
Whereas in the past, consumers only wanted to know whether a product was of good quality and possibly environmentally friendly, today they expect much more from the brands and products they buy. In addition to the aforementioned attributes, they should no longer merely fulfill their needs, but also be in line with their ethical values. General information and claims on packaging are no longer sufficient. According to the "Sustainability and Consumers" report by Mintel, more than half (54 percent) of German adults do not trust companies to report honestly on their environmental impact. The accusation: greenwashing. More recently, pinkwashing and rainbowwashing have joined the ranks. In this tough – and rather cynical – market, brands need more than ever. This has prompted companies to back up claims on packaging with facts, or "proof points."
But seriously, is the vodka consumer really going to pull out his smartphone to track the product? (Vodka was one example from the study)
The fact that we pull out our cell phones to look something up is taken for granted today. Companies can and should take advantage of this behavior. A well-placed and well-signposted QR code makes the connection between packaging, consumer and brand. QR codes may not be the right technology in every case, but their widespread use during the Corona pandemic made them familiar and accessible to most people. The key is to focus on consumer needs rather than your brand.
If you promise more information about your environmental efforts, make sure that information is the first thing consumers see – and in a clear and easy-to-understand in form and language. Consumers respond best to tangible information they can see and hear. Show them first what actions you have taken before marketing their outcome.
Mintel also recommends that companies consider the energy consumption of products and offer packaging with appropriate information. That's an enormous effort, isn't it?
Since last year at the latest, energy supply has become a major topic of conversation. The energy crisis has been accompanied by concerns about the climate; both factors have focused consumers’ attention on their energy consumption at home. This has also prompted appliance manufacturers and retailers to recognize this for their communication measures. They no longer just communicate about energy efficiency and energy-saving functions, but also provide consumers with energy-saving concepts. In the kitchen, the microwave is experiencing a renaissance, and the deep fryer is also becoming increasingly popular: both have lower energy consumption than the conventional oven.
How can companies and brands respond to this trend?
In the food industry, we’ve seen brands extend their preparation information to the microwave or hot air fryer. But this is not always easy or possible, as the cost of switching to a microwaveable tray, for example, can potentially jack up expenses. Providing cooking instructions that advertise the best use of the oven (for example, by specifying cooking time) and tips on how to use the oven’s residual heat can prove useful. Information or a temperature indicator on the package to optimize refrigerator temperature are a nice alternative to this.
Laundry care products that minimize water consumption by eliminating the need for a pre-wash, are other examples of new packaging information to save energy.
Currently, it seems that companies and brands are still hesitant to invest in packaging materials that facilitate energy-saving preparation. The energy crisis may eventually – we sincerely hope so – come to an end. However, resulting from our Mintel studies, we see that purchasing decisions are increasingly influenced by concerns about climate change. As a result, we will have to address the issue of energy efficiency in packaging in the long term as well.
About the interviewee:
Dr. Benjamin Punchard has a wealth of experience spanning over 20 years in the packaging industry. He joined Mintel in 2012 and, in his current role as Global Packaging Insights Director, he is responsible for creating and delivering packaging industry insights.