Consumers are coming out of the pandemic with a renewed focus on sustainability, according to a new report from McKinsey based on a survey of consumers across 11 countries.
It’s no surprise that preference for single-use plastics surged during the pandemic. In 2020, 71% of respondents in the U.S. said they were more concerned about hygiene and food safety than they were before COVID-19 began. But this year, that percentage dropped sharply to 37%.
That doesn’t mean hygiene and safety are no longer a top priority — 75% of U.S. consumers felt this aspect was of significant importance when it comes to product packaging. Shelf life (69%), ease of use (57%), and durability (55%) were also extremely or very important to most Americans, and these were also top concerns among other countries.
Nearly 40% of U.S. participants said the environmental impact of food packaging was important to them, less than the global average of 51%. Specific concerns regarding environmental impact also varied by country, but ocean litter and water pollution were the top two shared concerns. Meanwhile, natural resource depletion and deforestation ranked lowest.
Most surveyed respondents overall said they’d be willing to pay more for sustainable packaging, with a higher likelihood among consumers in developing nations and higher-income groups. Compostable packaging seems to be the most favorable sustainable solution among surveyed countries — 69% of total consumers and 72% of U.S. consumers ranked this as their top choice. Other top sustainable packaging options included plant-based packaging and compostable plastic films, while metal, aluminum, and combination packaging were ranked at the bottom of the list.
With pandemic packaging trends subsiding, new regulations emerging, and sustainability returning to the spotlight, McKinsey advises brands and packaging suppliers to evaluate their portfolios and identify opportunities to provide winning solutions.