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Reusable Packaging Sustainability: Evaluating its Effect at Retail

Demand for produce packaging in the US is forecast to increase 3.2 percent annually to $6.0 billion in 2019 (2015 Research Study). In the retail marketplace, more fresh produce is being displayed and sold ready-to-eat, thereby increasing the demand for packaging products that can extend shelf life and allow contents to be seen clearly.  Retailers are constantly adapting to meet shopper needs for fresh food – especially fresh produce – as part of their growth strategy.

But what do shoppers really think when it comes to fresh produce?

Is Sustainability Messaging Effective?

IFCO, A major marketer of sustainable, black, plastic reusable packaging containers (RPCs) wanted to understand the value of its sustainable RPCs to consumers. MMR was asked to evaluate the relevancy and business growth potential of adding sustainability messaging to the client’s RPCs at retail, and provide guidance on how to most effectively communicate to consumers about sustainability. Specifically, the client wanted us to address several questions:

–How do fresh produce shoppers define sustainability and how much do they care about it?

–What are shoppers’ preconceived perceptions of the sustainability of plastic versus corrugated containers i.e., benefits, features, preference, price/value implications?

–Which of the two solutions do they prefer given both are available and they understand their features and benefits? Does this make them more likely to shop at retailers with the RPC offering?

–Are consumers willing to pay a price premium for fresh produce products distributed to them in sustainable RPCs?

MMR executed online interviews for this evaluation project using a survey that: defined sustainability; determined whether shoppers care about it when buying fresh produce; identified perceived differences between plastic and corrugated RPCs; and identified the types of messaging most effective on RPCs.

Sustainability Messaging Fills a Consumer Need

The results of the research returned four key learnings that had implications for the client.

1) “Environmentally-friendly” messaging resonates most strongly. Consumer-facing sustainability messaging that positioned RPCs as ‘environmentally-friendly’ resonated best with fresh produce shoppers. This messaging should emphasize recycling, reducing landfill waste, and saving water.

2) The majority of fresh produce shoppers care strongly about sustainability & its benefits. All three age cohorts (18-34, 35-54, 55-64) demonstrated the same level of care.

3) Sustainability messaging positively impacts overall perceptions. RPCs with sustainability messaging overcomes the preconception that corrugated containers are more sustainable (based on appearance). When sustainability messaging is added to the container, consumers prefer fresh produce from that container.

4) Sustainability messaging impacts loyalty. If a consumer perceives a retailer as sustainable, then they are more likely to shop that retailer most often. When a retailer uses sustainable containers, it has a positive impact on visit and purchase intent.

MMR delivered a focused POV to the client from this project:  At the point of purchase, containers with sustainability messaging can influence consumers to purchase incremental items or shop retailers more often. Because loyalty is improved when a retailer is perceived as sustainable, MMR recommended to the client that it position their offering as helping to create/reinforce the perception of being sustainable. From this, the client can also target retailers who are already perceived as very sustainable (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Aldi) or retailers that show the most lift in loyalty among those who perceive them as sustainable (Kroger, Walmart, Costco).


Want to learn more? Join MMR’s Rob Lorys as he presents the findings during part one of a 3-part webinar series.

Remove the Risk:  Using Data to Drive Fresh Produce Growth.

A 3-part webinar series sponsored by IFCO beginning April 5, 2017 at 2:00pm.

Speakers for Session #1, Growing Your Fresh Produce Category:  New Data Shows How to Optimize Fresh Produce Sales by Meeting Shopper Expectations, include Hillary Femal, IFCO VP of Global Marketing and Rob Lorys, MMR’s Senior VP – Client Development & Marketing.

Register Here

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