In a research article published on August 7, 2021, by the British Food Journal, Carmela Donato and Alba D’Aniello from the LUISS Guido Carli, Rome, Italy, investigated how eco-labels for food and packaging affect the “consumers’ perceptions of food quality and safety.”
By combining a survey of 472 Italians with an experimental laboratory study, the scientists found that consumers perceive food to be of higher quality and safety when eco-labels are present. It did not matter whether the labels related to the food or the packaging as long as the meaning of the eco-label was explained. Consumers felt proud when buying eco-labeled products, which resulted in higher perceived food quality and safety. The study also demonstrated that consumers have a low understanding of eco-labels; only 50% of survey participants knew them. Previous research has shown that the type of packaging material also affects consumer perception, with glass and paper-based packaging perceived as the most healthy and eco-friendly (FPF reported).
Based on their results, D’Aniello et al. provide recommendations to manufacturers and policymakers. They suggest that food manufacturers display eco-labels on the packaging no matter whether the labels relate to the food or the packaging, and to also provide information on the aspects of sustainability associated with that labeling. To policymakers, they recommend using their study results “to inform food manufacturers about the benefits of eco-labeling, prompting producers to adopt greener production methods both for the food itself and for its packaging” and “to promote consumption of greener food” on the consumer side.
Antonella Cammarelle and colleagues from the University of Foggia, Italy, also surveyed Italian consumers but rather concerning their willingness to buy food packaged in innovative solutions like active and intelligent packaging (FPF reported here, here, and here) as well as packaging intended to have a low environmental impact.
The preliminary results published in a book chapter by Springer, Singapore, on September 8, 2021, indicate that consumer interest in purchasing innovative packaging is generally high, with more than 200 of the 260 respondents expressing “high willingness.” Concerning the type of innovative packaging, participants were more willing to buy sustainable packaging, such as those made of compostable materials, than intelligent packaging. The authors reported that the consumers’ intention to reduce household food waste serves as a predictor for this willingness to purchase innovative packaging. The interest of 20 small to medium manufacturers in investing in packaging innovations was also analyzed. 75% of the companies were willing to invest in one or more of these solutions, with most (67%) favoring active packaging.
WRAP, a civil society organization based in the UK, ran a trial with Unilever and Boots testing whether adding a sticker with a recycling message increased consumers’ recycling of the package. They found a 5% increase in recycling of bottles with a sticker than those without. According to the report, “labels which use a directive tone, essentially telling the citizen what to do, were preferred over advisory tone labels. This preference applied to on-pack food storage guidance as well as recycling information.”
Donato, C. and D’Aniello, A. (2021). “Tell me more and make me feel proud: the role of eco-labels and informational cues on consumers’ food perceptions.” British Food Journal. DOI: 10.1108/BFJ-04-2021-0416
Cammarelle, A. (2021). “Health and Eco-Innovations in Food Packaging.” In: Muthu S.S. (eds) Sustainable Packaging. Environmental Footprints and Eco-design of Products and Processes. Springer. Singapore. DOI: 10.1007/978-981-16-4609-6_2