Is leading with safety the new norm for the food packaging supply chain?
That’s probably a pretty provocative question to anyone working in the packaging space. And yes, I admit, I am trying to get their attention with that headline! For many years now, sustainability has rightfully been the key driver for material suppliers and food packaging manufacturers as they worked to help major brand owners achieve aggressive 2025 sustainability goals for their packaging.
Sustainability has been a key focus of G&S’s work over the past decade with the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA). We’ve helped the industry’s leading packaging advocate to communicate the many lifecycle benefits of flexible packaging, including transportation efficiency, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, less water and energy used in manufacturing, and less material used overall, resulting in less waste at end of life. Advantages such as safety, extended shelf life and consumer convenience are certainly highlighted in industry conversations as well – but not always to the same degree.
To be clear, we absolutely expect sustainability will continue to be a key driver for packaging. But in the world of COVID-19, packaging safety just might rise to the same level of importance.
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Consider this: According to the latest consumer intelligence survey fielded by G&S:
- 69% of Americans said they were more concerned about food safety than they were a few months ago (prior to the onset of the coronavirus). More than half (55%) said they had grown more concerned about food waste.
- 66% said they are at least somewhat concerned about contracting COVID-19 through food packaging.
- 95% of Americans agree it is at least somewhat important for companies to communicate the safety measures they are taking to ensure customer safety.
- 65% said that research indicating food and packaging are unlikely to spread the coronavirus would prove reassuring.
- And 44% told us they are cleansing their food packaging with a disinfectant.
In the near-term, the entire packaging supply chain should continue to help share the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that help consumers understand how to appropriately handle food products and food packaging during this pandemic.
Over the longer-term, though, according to FPA’s President & CEO Alison Keane, when faced with uncertainty and ongoing health worries, consumers’ emphasis on food and packaging safety will endure well after stay-at-home orders are lifted. “COVID-19 will create a lasting change to how we shop, our buying habits and the overall retail experience. Post-pandemic, consumers will choose food items, packaging types and brands that, above all else, help them feel safe. Advantages like the sterility of flexible packaging will certainly come to the forefront.”
From material suppliers to brand owners, this may represent a crucial need and opportunity to elevate safety to the same level as sustainability across traditional, digital and social channels. G&S will continue to explore this monumental shift with FPA and other clients along the food supply chain looking to drive demand and loyalty from consumers in a post-COVID environment.
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This blog post is the third in a series about agriculture and the COVID-19 crisis.