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FI Insights

United States Consumers Greatly Prefer Paper Packaging, Survey Finds

May 27, 2020
Author: Travis Durkee

Two Sides North America recently released the results of a survey that measured packaging preferences of 2,000 consumers in the United States. The results bode well for the pulp and paper industry.

Those surveyed ranked their preferred packaging materials (paper/cardboard, glass, metal and plastic) based on 15 environmental, practical, and visual/tactile attributes. 

Paper/cardboard was the preferred packaging material in the following 11 categories:

  • Home compostable (69 percent of surveyed consumers)
  • Better for the environment (66 percent)
  • Less expensive (53 percent)
  • Easier to recycle (51 percent)
  • Lighter weight (51 percent)
  • Safer to use (49 percent)
  • Easier to open/close (47 percent)
  • More practical (46 percent)
  • Better product information (36 percent)
  • Better brand image (33 percent)
  • Easier to store (32 percent)

Paper/cardboard came in second behind glass in reusability and preferred look and feel. Glass was also the preferred choice for better protection, while metal was the preferred choice for strength.

“Packaging is receiving more attention than ever as society tries to achieve a more circular economy.” Said Phil Riebel, president of Two Sides North America, Inc. “Consumers are becoming more aware of available packaging choices for the items they buy, which in turn is influencing packaging decisions by businesses – particularly in the retail sector. The culture of ‘make, use, dispose’ is gradually changing.

“We conducted this research to better understand consumer perceptions when it comes to packaging. Results show that paper-based packaging is the preferred choice of consumers for its environmental attributes, such as recyclability and compostability, as well as many practical factors, such as ease of storage.”

The findings of this survey speak further to the commentary of Fisher International’s Nancy Hassan, who wrote the following excerpt in the Fisher analysis “From Plastic to Paper: How Will Sustainability Trends Impact the Pulp and Paper Industry?

The sight of massive islands of plastic waste floating in the Pacific Ocean are just a small sample of unforgettable images that have heightened consumer awareness of the excessive plastic pollution both on land and sea. … Plastics don’t biodegrade. They only break down, slowly, into smaller fragments called microplastics, which are making their way into our food chain and subsequently into our bodies. The health risks of microplastics are not fully understood, but anti-plastic sentiment is already pushing sustainability trends in packaging.  

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • 57 percent of consumers are actively taking steps to reduce their use of plastic packaging
  • 57 percent of consumers prefer products ordered online to be delivered in paper packaging rather than plastic packaging
  • Consumers ranked paper bags highest for environmental attributes such as recyclability (57%), compostability (53%) and made with recycled content (46%)

Click here to read the full findings from Two Sides North America.

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