Americans seek to minimize packaging waste

American consumers prefer food items with minimal packaging as they are becoming more conscientious of their carbon footprint. About half of Americans prefer to purchase foods with minimal or no packaging in order to reduce waste.
Christine Becker,
Christine Becker,

Research by Mintel has shown that four in five (80%) U.S. food shoppers agree that reducing food waste is as important as reducing packaging waste.

About 81% of consumers say that they would choose resealable packaging over non-resealable packaging. The research found that over half (54%) of the consumers would pay more for packaging with added features such as being resealable or portion controlled, with three in 10 often reusing food packaging for other purposes.

However, just 42% consumers report recycling most of the used food packaging.

Unclear packaging may be a contributor to the relatively low recycling rate. Further, only 13% of consumers make an effort to avoid foods in packaging that cannot be recycled.

“Our research shows that reducing food waste is top of mind for consumers. This presents opportunities for food brands and retailers to address these concerns through innovative packaging and product messaging,” said John Owen, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel.

“The prevention of food waste can be positioned not only as a good way for consumers to save money, but also as a way to work toward reversing the growing food waste trend through conscious consumption,” said Mr. Owen.

Single-serve food packaging is growing in popularity as Americans prefer snacking on-the-go. Around 36% of consumers are interested in packaging that allows food to be eaten on the go, while one quarter (23%) often buy individually portioned packs.

“Package innovation is playing a key role as food retailers respond to an ongoing shift away from the traditional three sit-down meals a day in favor of snacking and on-the-go eating. In an effort to capitalize on ever-evolving eating occasions, brands should look to package products in single-serve portions for greater portability. To further build trust and increase purchase confidence, brands and manufacturers could incorporate transparent packaging, enabling consumers to evaluate the contents with their own eyes before committing to a purchase,” added Mr. Owen.

Mintel’s 2016 Global Packaging Trend Phenomenal Flexibles highlighted that flexible packaging is no longer considered a compromise for brands as demand for single-serve packaging grows. About 34% of consumers view flexible pouches as “modern,” compared to 40% consumers who perceive glass packaging as “old-fashioned.” However, 49% of consumers agree that glass is reusable.

“While the need for portability is forcing some brands to forgo glass for more convenient packaging options, glass hits on the trend of package reusability, and is considered visually appealing to many consumers. As such, brands that use glass packaging should market their products with a second life for its package in mind. Packaging continues to grow more important in the food marketing mix and brands should look to packaging to not only convey benefits and product information but also to shape a consumer’s experience with the product and to capture new use occasions,” noted Mr. Owen.


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