3 Ways to Minimize Waste Through Package Design

The holiday season in America has long been referred to as the “season of excess” – a period of rapid accumulation and consumption stretching from Halloween through New Year’s Eve. Judging by the recently bulging refrigerators and cupboards, boxes piling up on doorsteps and waste bins overflowing at the ends of driveways, we might consider renaming it the “season of excess packaging”. But the crackdown has begun, courtesy of Amazon’s new $1.99 per item surcharge to CPG manufacturers not meeting their standards for waste reduction.

Fortunately, the next decade is expected to bring solutions that help both brands and consumers meaningfully minimize packaging waste. While we touched on a shift to a waste-centric, circular economy in a prior issue, here we are proposing 3 considerations for evolving your package design:

  1. In the War on Plastic, are you Friend or Foe? Consumers have heard the predictions – that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. They know that the foods and beverages they buy are often packaged, wrapped and/or stored in plastic. According to a recent study by Nestle, 9 in 10 Americans say society produces too much plastic scrap, and 7 in 10 expect companies that use it, to address it. But current press reveals that even behemoths like Unilever and Pepsico are struggling to use less – at the same time countries and cities are proposing single-use plastic bans. Brands poised for the future will look to alternative substrates like aluminum, natural polymers, beeswax-coated fabric wrap, shrinking pack size through concentrates or waterless formulations and reusable “forever bottles” a la Blueland.
Packaging example from Blueland
  • Can it be eaten? Analysts predict a not-so-distant future where package – not just product – is edible, citing future artifacts like edible boxes dissolved into soups and recent experiments by Starbucks, Air New Zealand and Loliware with edible cups, straws and wrappers. In addition, scientists in the field of synthetic biology are looking to introduce plastic-eating enzymes into the packaging life cycle.
Edible cups from Loliware that were featured on the TV show, Shark Tank
  • Can you extend shelf life? Waste can also be addressed through freshness and expiry, as consumers lament their part in food waste by throwing out unused products that are seemingly past their prime. There’s plenty of inspiration from airless packaging, as well as recent developments like Aptar’s Standcap silicone dispensing valve, and Unilever’s new “often good after x date” labeling that will be placed directly after “best before” text.
Unilever's new expiration labeling

The Rise of Intuitive Eating

American’s New Year’s resolutions often involve dieting – not surprising as we rank #35 on the world’s healthiest nation list and can claim obesity as an epidemic.[1] Amongst the most Google searched diets in the last 2 years only one has remained consistently in the top 10: the Noom diet.[2] Its primary source of intrigue? Looking at weight loss from a mind-body perspective, examining “food demons” and managing stress in order to keep the weight off.[3] At present, there’s another holistic approach, resurrected from its debut in 1995 that is gaining traction: Intuitive Eating. But whatever you do…don’t call it a diet.

Intuitive eating is proudly referred to as a non-diet approach to wellness. One that leans into both body and mind while following simple health-oriented rules: eat when hungry – mindful of hunger on a 1 to 10 scale, respect fullness – allowing brain and body to sync up before overeating, don’t eat your feelings – find non-food ways to address them, move – exercise, make peace with your choices – banishing guilt, and lastly, balance health and nourishment with indulgence to ensure elements of enjoyment and self-care in eating, not solely self-control.[4]

Intuitive Eating 101 instruction image

What’s most interesting about intuitive eating is that it taps into consumer preference. The reality is that U.S. Consumers are significantly more likely to view health and wellness as “feeling good about themselves” (6 in 10) vs. simply “consuming natural, wholesome foods” (3 in 10).[5] This indicates that there’s more joy in a healthy mindset than in healthy eating. Analysts attribute interest in mind-body approaches to eating as “tapping into the growing frustrations many people have with dieting. Americans are sick of the shame and fear around food, and of failure in front of the near-insurmountable odds of long-term weight loss…the lifelong pressure to diet wears people down”.[6]

"I prefer my food without a side of guilt and shame." Kristen, Anti-Diet Friend

We, as food and beverage marketers, can learn from this. While chasing Diet-X claims for the short-term opportunities they bring, have we missed a bigger and longer-term opportunity to boldly balance our portfolios and messaging with both healthful and indulgent, and uplift the diet-fatigued culture with permission…or even an invitation to know and listen to their own bodies and minds when making food choices?

"Last week I was craving cookies. So I ate cookies. ..." and other intuitive eating thoughts from Emily Murray, RD, LDN @foodfreedomdietitian

[1] “These Are The World’s Healthiest Nations”, Bloomberg, 2/24/19
[2] U.S. News Ranks the 38 Best Diets of 2019, 2018
[3] “Does The Noom Diet Work?”, mindbodygreen.com, 1/02/20
[4] “Why Some Healthy Eating Experts Say Intuitive Eating Is the Future of Nutrition”, Well+Good, 12/19/19
[5] “Dimensions of Health & Wellness”, Hartman Group, 2019
[6] “Intuitive Eating: The Diet That Tells You to Quit Dieting”, The Atlantic, 2/22/19

Questions, comments or want to learn more? Let's connect! weshouldtalk@jtmega.com

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