4 Sustainable Packaging Trends for Home and Personal Care Products
Oceans filled with plastic waste isn't a "you" problem or a "me" problem. It's an "all of us" crisis that is at an inflection point. An October 2021 United Nations report found that plastic pollution in the world's oceans and waterways is growing rapidly and could double in just eight years if that growth isn't slowed. But the news isn't all bad. The commitment to environmentally friendly manufacturing and sustainable personal care and home care packaging is also growing stronger every day.
While regulatory guidelines with hefty fines provide a "stick" motivation to manufacturers, the bigger "carrot" driving change in sustainably produced goods and packaging is coming directly from consumers. In fact, nearly six in 10 said that customer demand was the third-biggest motivator to deliver sustainable packaging, according to a Jabil survey of 186 packaging and sustainability decision-makers at consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands.
Consumer-Driven Demands for Sustainable Packaging
A report cited by CNBC showed that 73% of Gen-Z consumers are more willing to pay for sustainable products — more than any other generation. Not only do these young shoppers choose sustainably produced items, a Deloitte survey revealed that 45% of Gen-Z consumers in the UK actually stopped purchasing their favorite brand after discovering it was not eco-friendly.
In that same CNBC report, a 19-year-old student stated that "she can already see the influence her generation is making by using their purchasing power to hold companies to a higher standard, with numerous companies launching sustainability campaigns and highlighting green practices."
She's not the only one speaking out and driving change forward:
- 69% of U.S. adults believe that large businesses and corporations are doing too little to address climate change and environmental issues, according to a survey conducted by Pew Research.
- 64% of those surveyed by Deloitte identified improved packaging (with less plastic and waste) as the number one thing businesses need to do to support a sustainable consumer lifestyle.
- 34% of Deloitte respondents indicated that a lack of information is preventing them from choosing brands with ethical values and practices.
Consumers are telling businesses to do more to address climate change, use less plastic packaging and tell them what your brand is doing. If companies that produce home, professional and personal care products aren't already incorporating sustainability into their packaging and communicating their sustainability efforts, this is the time to start. Customers demand it. And companies can deliver.
Perspectives in Sustainable Packaging for Personal and Home Care Products
More than 40% of Jabil survey participants represented personal care and home care segments. Within each segment, there were perspectives that stood out in how they thought about sustainable packaging.
In personal care product packaging, nearly 60% of respondents said they were actively learning and piloting small projects on sustainable packaging options. Only 4% said they had a fully mature program at this time. This may be due to the availability of options on the market: in size options, accessibility, easy-to-open lids and container durability.
Because these personal care products — including shaving care, cough and cold medicine, skin care, oral hygiene, baby supplies — are used on the body or in the body, consumers also want to know that the packaging will protect the substances from spoilage or quality degradation throughout the product's entire shelf life. That's why decision-makers are split on their sustainable packaging strategy: Half said any sustainable packaging option must include equal or greater product protection as non-sustainable options, whereas the other half were ready to consider a slightly lower level of product protection to gain sustainability advantages.
Meanwhile, the global audience for home care products is very diverse, with a broad age range of consumers, including a growing population of older individuals. In addition, the expectations and cultures vary from areas that are extremely rural to those that are decidedly more tech-savvy. Furthermore, households made up of just one adult (28% of Americans) have different needs than those that have multiple adults living under one roof (58% of 18 to 24 year-olds live in their parents' home) or are families with children (50% of U.S. households). Products like air fresheners, laundry supplies, dish care and surface cleaning are often on display, so consumers are looking for products that are both visually pleasing and sustainable — especially for those items that are reusable and refillable.
Over half of the participants from the home care segment said they've made good progress on sustainable packaging but that they have work to do, while another 41% said they were actively learning and piloting small projects; 14% indicated they had a fully mature program already in place. Unlike those in the personal care segment, almost eight in 10 of those in the home care segment said that any sustainable packaging option must include equal or greater product protection as non-sustainable options.
Overall, there are four big trends impacting the future of home and personal care product packaging.
Trend 1: The Circular Economy Continues to Take Shape
Many of the world's leading brands aim to make their packaging 100% reusable or recyclable by 2025, with many planning to source post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials, such as post-consumer recycled resin, to get there. CPG brands have a strong tendency (64%) to incorporate PCR and other recycled content as part of their product-level initiatives.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "a circular economy reduces material use, redesigns materials to be less resource intensive, and recaptures 'waste' as a resource to manufacture new materials and products." This moves us away from the past approach of mining resources, making products and then throwing them out as nothing but waste.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation says that in a circular economy, brands work within the concept of four Rs: reduce, recycle, reuse and rethink. Sustainable packaging is a major component of a circular economy.
CPG brands found reusable packaging particularly favorable, with 50% of home care and 48% of personal care companies selecting that option as the ultimate solution to sustainable packaging. Packaging materials that can be recycled infinitely like paper (31%) or returned to the earth, like compostable packaging (23%), were also rated highly.
Trend #2: Increased Focus on Health Aspects of Packaging
For decades, health-conscious consumers have been making decisions about which home or personal care products they'll purchase by referring to the label on the package. Now they're even focusing on the package itself.
In addition to seeking greener personal care and cleaning products, consumers want to know if the packaging is being produced in a way the protects the product's integrity, reduces leaks or spills, and is still environmentally friendly.
Between 2019 and 2021, the use of non-food grade PCR resins jumped dramatically from 30% to 50% across the CPG industry.
Source: Jabil Sustainable Packaging Trends Survey, January 2022
When CPG packaging is made from recycled materials, "the circular nature of the recycling economy may have the potential to introduce additional chemicals into products," warned a recent EPA study after finding greater amounts of fragrances, flame retardants, solvents, biocides and dyes in products made from recycled materials, which can be detrimental to consumer health. Therefore it's critical to properly source PCR materials for personal care and home care product packaging.
Environmental safety and personal health go together, with CPG packaging playing a role in both. In the personal and home care product packaging segments, 68% of participants say compostable resins are playing a significant role in their sustainable packaging strategy.
Trend #3: The Role of Connected Packaging in Sustainability
Product subscription services and refillable or reusable packaging for personal care and home care have become extremely common, but connected packaging with auto-replenishment is a game-changer.
Utilizing the cloud to leverage extensive data processing, tracking, social, content delivery and commercial capabilities, connected packaging is part of the Internet of Things (IoT). For example, when a connected soap dispenser starts getting empty based on weight or other measurements, it can automatically order a refill to be delivered to the customer's door. Not only does this reduce the amount of plastic needed for the product's outer container, it also reduces the brand's footprint due to fewer carbon emissions when packaging is lighter and small enough to be consolidated with other shipped goods.
Connected packaging typically utilizes three main elements:
- A durable connected device that uses sensors to precisely measure the amount of remaining product and communicate directly with the IoT platform.
- A corresponding lightweight consumable refill package that is delivered to the end-consumer when an auto-replenishment order is triggered.
- An intuitive white-label companion app, which consumers use to set up and manage auto-replenishment across devices.
Connected packaging can enable more direct-to-consumer communication, which allows personal care, home care and professional care CPGs to send customers product tips, trending information, promotions or other content that strengthens the bond between brand and consumer.
Today's companies and consumers are always looking for ways to be more efficient. Connected packaging can be the answer that also delivers sustainability benefits, cost reduction and a positive brand experience.
Trend #4: Omnichannel Packaging for E-commerce and In-store
Consumers' buying patterns have changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many discovered online shopping for the first time, others ramped up their use of online ordering and delivery. Simply put, e-commerce exploded.
Yet, for many consumers, getting out of the house, interacting with others and walking through the aisles is part of the shopping experience. Some buyers want to be able to physically pick up their home care or personal care products so they can feel the weight of the package, see how large it is, whiff the product or otherwise be "in the moment" with their goods.
As CPG manufacturers move toward more sustainable packaging, they have two main options:
- Design their product packaging to attract both e-commerce and in-store buyers.
- Choose a strategy that creates unique packaging for the two different shopping channels.
Visually, the design for either channel needs to be attractive, reflect the brand and convey its purpose. But when it comes to retail, the package's allure is even more important. With your product shelved among its competitors, its presence needs to stand out from the other brands. And with the revelation that today's consumers are specifically looking for products that make sustainability a priority, the company's packaging needs to "look the part." One example is paper-based or hybrid packaging because its appearance reinforces the message of sustainability.
Hybrid paper bottles do a great job of conveying this commitment to a consumer and delivers a strong impact. There is currently nothing else on the shelf that looks like this, so the consumer is seeing and interacting with that fiber shell, which is different than the packaging that it is next to, which is a powerful way to draw consumers in.
Visual appeal is still important for e-commerce, but online searches are filtered by the words you type rather than filtered by your eyes as you scan a retail shelf. Although the weight of a product matters with in-store purchases, it matters even more when people are buying products online. The design and messaging need to be clear that the product is lightweight and doesn't use any extraneous packaging material. Not only does this demonstrate a commitment to using less plastic, but it also reduces the carbon footprint with fewer emissions needed for delivery.
Designing Home and Personal Care Product Packaging for Success
Although CPG brands have a desire to support the efforts for a more sustainable world, 49% of companies that responded to the Jabil Sustainable Packaging Trends survey indicated that their company's lack of internal expertise could interfere with their goals related to sustainable packaging.
More than two-thirds (67%) of those who responded in 2021 are turning to manufacturing partners or packaging suppliers to address their sustainable packaging needs, up from 52% in 2019. Partners in the sustainable packaging space understand how to bring together all the critical elements of an effective strategy and implementation, including package design, materials sourcing, regulatory issues and consumer demands.
One last thought. Companies achieve the highest stock returns when they focus on meaningful Environmental, Social and Governance issues, according to a Harvard study referenced in an article from Consumer Goods Technology. The author explains that, "ESG is not a philanthropic effort of 'doing good' with leftover profits but rather a metrics-driven approach with long-term business strategies."
The commitment to decision-making based on environmental impact needs to be top-of-mind for the C-suite and throughout the organization. Sustainability and profit can — and must — co-exist.
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Insights from over 180 packaging decision-makers at global enterprises on their sustainable packaging goals, initiatives and challenges.