Nearly half (46%) of those aged 55 and over, are more likely than any other age group to favour sustainable packaging - choosing this option above others including convenience and the shelf life of a product, according to new analysis by PwC and The Grocer Vision.
They are also more likely to be impacted by the 'Attenborough effect', as 60% say that TV has been the biggest factor in making them think about the climate and social consequences of packaging.
However, 18-24 year olds, who are most likely to be influenced by social media when it comes to making buying decisions, are also happiest to pay over 15% more for an item if it has high sustainability credentials.
The Beyond Plastics: Grocery Shopping in a Sustainable Future analysis found that TV programmes such as the BBC's Blue Planet, and civil action by environmental groups may play a role in impacting the buying decisions of UK consumers.
Additionally, the survey, which charted the opinions of more than 1,000 UK adults, found:
7 in 10 of consumers have changed their shopping habits as a result of concerns over packaging.
60% of shoppers have sought out products with less packaging.
However, two fifths of consumers (41%) would not be prepared to pay more for sustainable packaging.
Consumers also state that plastics in the ocean are their number one environmental concern, while over half of survey respondents (63%) believe that the responsibility to ensure packaging does not damage the environment or society, lies with packaging and food and drink manufacturers, and not Government or retailers.
Simon McKay, Paper and Packaging Leader at PwC UK, said:
“The public outcry against plastics may be seen as superficial for some. But, when 30% of consumers claim they have switched their regular brand to ones with more sustainable packaging - there is no doubt of the commercial impact for businesses that fail to take action.
“This creates a dilemma. What shoppers often believe is the right thing to do is not always the most sustainable packaging option.
“Should businesses be either charging forward and investing in the most sustainable packaging format currently available, or taking a more measured approach?
“Our survey showed that 41% of shoppers would not be prepared to pay more for sustainable packaging. So, it's critical that firms ensure that whichever approach they adopt, they do so keeping in mind the concerns of the consumer, and the potential for future changes in environmental and regulatory focus.
“For example, plastic packaging comes out favourably in comparison to many materials when looking at greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is a fast evolving maelstrom of public opinion, with a reluctance to compromise on packaging performance, all taking place against a raft of emerging legislation. It’s clear there are no simple choices in this new packaging reality.
“However, there are win-wins for organisations. Take action today, but also ensure you have the agility to respond quickly to a changing environment tomorrow.”
PwC and The Grocer Vision asked a nationally representative sample of 1098 adults a series of questions, including:
Which of the below, if any, would put you off switching to packaging with better environmental and social credentials? If the product…
Has a shorter shelf life
Has a higher risk of being damaged or blemished
Is less convenient to eat
Is harder to store
Looks less attractive on the shelf
Nothing would put me off switching to this type of packaging - 18-34 (23.66%), 35-54 (30.35%), 55+ (46.34)
What has been the most important factor in making you think about the environmental or social impact of your food and drink packaging?
If an item cost £2.50 now, but moved to packaging with better environmental and social credentials, how much would you be prepared to pay for the item in total?
In your opinion, who is most responsible for ensuring that food and drink packaging does not damage the environment or society?
Have you switched any of your regular food brands as a direct result of your attitude to the environmental or social impact of your food and drink packaging?