Re-packaging the Mindset

Packaging formats are in focus to shake up the search for convenience and sustainability

It’s time for new choices

Climate change has gained priority on the world’s agenda. 2019 will almost certainly be remembered as the year when global warming became global heating. Consumers are concerned about the future of the planet and governments are facing unprecedented pressure to take action, while companies are also expected to be proactive and better evaluate the environmental impact of their decisions. It’s up to consumers to make sustainable purchase choices, but it’s up to the brands to diversify the menu.

The food and beverage industry has been a pioneering category in response to the damaging impact that plastic bottles and straws have on the environment. With approximately 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in the ocean each year, the need for a new model is urgent. Consumer consciousness is changing their expectations of the role brands can play in tackling this issue. Rethinking the single-use plastic containers paradigm may not be an easy task, however, it is not an impossible one. Solutions have come from three main strategy routes: zero package, multiple-use packages and single-use aluminium cans.

Innovating in three directions

New edible solutions are one way brands are taking the zero packaging route. Although effective from a waste perspective, they usually compromise convenience and can present some distribution problems. An example is ‘Ooho’ bringing fully-biodegradable spheres made from seaweed as a substitute for the plastic bottle. The likelihood of this ball of water exploding inside your bag will probably prevent consumers from adopting the model. Another (less explosive) innovation in this route are corn straws, which is hitting luxury bars as they gradually replace plastic straws. There is certainly more to be unlocked in this category.

The multiple-use route seems to compromise less on convenience. However, logistics is its biggest barrier, as it requires substantial behavioural change, such as the consumer washing and carrying the container as well as being able to rely on refill stations. Brands encouraging reuse at the expense of less frequent purchases shows a commitment to a higher purpose, which could lead to higher brand credibility and loyalty.

Finally, a scalable and convenient innovation is coming from a simple but revolutionary adaptation to the aluminium can, allowing it to be resealable. Can-O-Water makes its case by clearly explaining 5 truths about aluminium cans: “the average aluminium can is made from 68% total recycled content; aluminium cans are infinitely recyclable; cans go from the recycling bin to store shelves within 60 days; cans stay colder for longer, keeping the water cool and fresh” and, finally, “cans pack tighter making them more efficient to transport than other drinks containers”. This example proves it is possible to combine convenience and sustainability.

It’s too soon to say which paradigm will become mainstream and occupy the place of the single-use plastic bottle model. There is no doubt this is a huge opportunity for brands to gain respect (and yes, love!) from not just environmentally engaged consumers, but  all consumers. The time is now and whoever leverages the momentum and moves first will gain competitive advantage.

Some say that the best things come in small packages and while we can’t be certain of that, it’s safe to say that in 2019 the best drinks will come in sustainable ones! Here at Butterfly, we delve deep into consumer insight to identify disruptive unmet needs and opportunity spaces for brands to innovate in dynamic categories. For more information, drop us a line at