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Eco-friendly packaging influences shopping decisions, study says

March 13, 2012 |  2:32 pm

Ecovative Design's EcoCradle wine shipper is made from mushroomsMore U.S. shoppers are interested in choosing eco-friendly packaging, but they're confused about which types are best for the environment, according to a study on packaging and the environment released Monday.

The study from the New Jersey marketing firm Perception Research Services reports that 36% of shoppers in 2011 were likely to choose environmentally friendly packaging, a 29% increase over 2010. Half of the shoppers polled said they were willing to pay more for such packaging. One-third of the shoppers said they bought more of a product if its package was labeled "recyclable" or "made from recycled material," and a quarter of the shoppers said they have switched brands for more eco-friendly packaging.

One in five shoppers said packaging didn't include enough environmental information and provided confusing claims, the study found. Many respondents said they didn't know which packaging was best for the environment.

Packaging had the biggest effect on buying behavior if it was labeled "recyclable," "made from recycled materials" or "easier to recycle," or if it was marked with a recycling symbol. Packaging that said it used less material did not have as large an impact on shoppers' decisions.

Consumers were more likely than previously to check if the packaging could be recycled before buying a product. From 2008 to 2010, just 17% of consumers checked to see if packaging could be recycled; by 2011, that number had risen to 23%.

"We're seeing a great opportunity for manufacturers to provide truly value-added packaging to their target shoppers by making it more environmentally friendly," said Jonathan Asher, Perception Research Services' executive vice president. He said manufacturers that label smaller, thinner packaging as eco-friendly when the intention is merely to disguise cost reductions only tests shoppers' goodwill.

Perception Research Services, whose clients include consumer products manufacturers such as Hewlett Packard and Johnson & Johnson, has been conducting studies on consumer attitudes about packaging and the environment since 2007. One thousand consumers from across the country were surveyed for the 2011 study on packaging and the environment.

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-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Ecovative Design's EcoCradle wine shipper made from mushrooms. Credit: Mycobond

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