What do consumers desire in terms of biobased packaging of food products? And how can this strengthen the position of a brand product? To answer these questions, Wageningen UR is looking for companies to jointly launch a public-private partnership.
‘Biobased packaging offers food manufacturers and retail companies opportunities to make their products more sustainable and thus strengthen their brand and position in the market,’ explains Christiaan Bolck, Programme Manager of Biobased Materials at Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research. ‘Coca-Cola, for example, has introduced a bottle on the market that is produced in part using sugarcane, and Danone is introducing a variety of biobased packaging produced using, amongst other things, polylactic acid. Other companies are considering taking this step, but often still have quite a few unanswered questions.’
Consumer perception of biobased packaging
Making a specific switch requires more clarity regarding the consumer perception of biobased packaging in the food sector. Determining this can enable companies to take more well-founded decisions: How do I position the product in the market? What kind of technical innovation is required to develop sustainable biobased packaging? And how can the packaging contribute to solving sustainability issues important to consumers and NGOs?
‘The current EU study Open-Bio suggests that consumers respond in different ways to different amounts of biobased ‘content’ in packaging,’ says Marieke Meeusen from LEI Wageningen UR. ‘We see differences between the various leading brand products, but also between the leading brand products and store brands. The “biobased” origin of a product determines the perception that is created in consumers’ minds. This preliminary study result makes clear that biobased content in packaging affects consumer perception and that there are differences in perception. However, we do not yet know how to explain those differences and when they can be expected. This is still virgin territory.’
Biobased packaging has added value
According to Meeusen, biobased packaging is generally more expensive than its non-biobased equivalent. ‘On the other hand, biobased packaging has added value. We want to use consumer research to determine what exactly that added value is in the eyes of consumers. Once we have that answer, companies can translate this into their positioning in the market and claims they use to substantiate their products. They can also invest in a more targeted fashion in technical innovation and their communications on biobased packaging. If, for example, customers appreciate visible fibre in the packaging, the company can tailor its production process to this preference.’
Registration deadline of 11 May
Meeusen and Bolck warmly invite packaging producers, leading brand manufacturers, retailers and sector organisations to join the PPS by 11 May. Wageningen UR will be submitting the PPS proposal to the Top Sector Agriculture and Food on 18 May. The PPS is a joint initiative of the research institutes LEI and Food & Biobased Research at Wageningen UR.
ir. MJG (Marieke) Meeusen-van Onna
ir. CH (Christiaan) Bolck
Program Manager Biobased Materials