Industry News

AUSPACK 2019 show

How mindful consumers are changing the landscape, according to industry experts

Posted on October 14th, 2019 in Industry News

More than ever before, consumers are more interested in what goes into the purchases they make. Whether it’s ethically sourced ingredients or compostable packaging, it’s now more than just about how a product tastes.

Lindy Hughson, publisher at Yaffa Media, led a panel at the 2019 AUSPACK Business and Industry Conference about the rise of the mindful consumer and what that means for the packaging and processing sectors.

Also on the panel were:

  • Angeline Achariya, CEO of Monash Food Innovation Centre
  • Jane Barnett, South APAC head of insights for Mintel
  • Armando Bompane, general manager for MultiVac Australia
  • Doug McNicholl, manager of supply chain sustainability innovation at Meat & Livestock Australia

What is a mindful consumer?

Mindfulness can mean many things in today’s society, but for the purpose of this panel discussion it meant consumers who want to look after themselves and the environment.

Lindy opened the panel by describing what this person might be looking for in a product. She said, “The mindful consumer is one who places increasing emphasis on the importance of knowing what it is in the food they purchase and where it has come from. This consumer is choosing healthier foods more frequently and is significantly influenced by real ingredients and ethical claims.”

“Similarly, when it comes to packaging, this consumer has a heightened awareness around plastic waste, renewables and recyclable materials.”

Jane, whose company has done research in this area, added to this by saying, “We’ve tracked consumer behaviour on a global level and there has certainly been a rise in this space and skewed more towards our millennial demographic.”

“What that means from a consumer perspective is really: Where does my money go? How is it used? What impact does it have on the broader community and the environment?”

Is the mindfulness trend translating to product innovation?

If consumers are making requests and demands for different types of products, ones that impact both the product itself and the packaging, does that lead to companies being innovative in the way they approach their work?

For Armando, he has seen consumer-driven innovations across the world, but not always in the direction of zero waste.

He said, “Looking at packaging globally, we’re seeing innovations through a number of different ways, typically consumer-driven. We’re seeing a rising demand for convenience-based products — including portion packs and pre-packed fresh products — and this typically conflicts with the zero-waste packaging movement, packaging-free purchasing.”

“We’re seeing a lot more ready-to-go based packaging, and the rise of mail-order businesses, eg e-commerce, and these kinds of business models are typically driving up packaging volumes on a global basis.”

Angeline told the audience that although companies are reacting to consumer demand, there has to be input from the industry experts too otherwise there will be too many untenable products on the market.

She said, “Every brand will come to us when we get a brief and say ‘I want all of these things’ and when you speak to the right target consumer, or end-user as we say, you’ll find there are more things they want.”

“You can then end up creating such an expensive product no one will buy it, so it’s about always about compromises. Part of that compromise in the innovation process is we are living in a high-velocity change world. The minute when you go and speak to a target consumer you figure out what that innovation looks like and the goalposts move again.”

What other areas should the industry lead in?

While 100% recyclable packaging may sound like a great goal, there are times when non-recyclable packaging may have its benefits, such as in reducing food waste. In times like this, education is key.

Doug spoke of a trip he took to Europe when he spoke to a large research and development centre about mindful consumers. Their response to him was, “They said there are two things: one is that we need to continually educate our population base about the importance of really basic source-separation of waste so that we’re collecting packaging waste separate to organic waste. Then secondly, understanding the mechanics of the technology that treats the waste.”

“They invest heavily in public awareness and understanding in the importance of avoiding food waste to start with but if they do end up wasting food then it’s all separated so it can be collected and put to beneficial use. I don’t think that happens enough in this country. We’re very fortunate that we have plentiful food and fairly fragmented waste handling collection.”

Three key takeaways:

  • Customers are becoming more mindful, both in terms of the products themselves and the packaging.
  • Companies have a responsibility to educate consumers, both at point of purchase and at home.
  • Product innovation has to be a compromise of consumer demand and industry expertise.

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