Earlier this month, Coca Cola unveiled its latest innovation. No, not a new beverage formulation. But a novel vessel for its products – a fully recyclable plastic bottle made entirely from renewable plant materials. Chalk one up for Planet Earth, as the “PlantBottle™” is a move away from petroleum based materials. Using a patented method that turns natural plant sugars into plastic bottle ingredients, Coca-Cola launched an earlier version in 2009 that was 30% plant-based – this 2015 edition is 100% bioplastic. According to a profile in Plastics Today, Coca Cola believes PlantBottle™ packaging is “estimated to have helped save the equivalent annual emissions of more than 315,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.”
Coca Cola’s move is just the latest by an iconic brand looking to embrace more sustainable packaging. Other recent “green” newsmakers have included Method, Hershey and Clorox. But are these just good, practical business tactics or are companies making changes in response to a growing consumer trend? Is sustainability becoming a concern among everyday consumers? Is it increasingly something that companies should consider when exploring brand extensions, new product development, and packaging design?
According to our study on the subject, the answer is yes. While U.S. & U.K. consumers conveyed a basic understanding of sustainability, there were strong associations around the idea of preserving the environment for future generations. Our insights suggest that products with a sustainability label have a higher likelihood of success, as 80% of consumers said they would be more likely to purchase clearly-marked environmentally-responsible products.
In our study, we asked consumers to both verbalize and visualize their personal associations with sustainability. Brands looking to capture the hearts and minds of eco-aware consumers may want to take note. Positive words that came to mind include renewable, green and recycle. Negative ones included pollution, waste and greed. Visualization of sustainability resulted in imagery around preserving the environment and health (interestingly, in another study we recently led to learn what Healthy means to consumers, participants mentioned that taking care of the environment was a dimension of Healthy). While consumers may not have a full grasp of specific corporate sustainability initiatives, they did have definite ideas about what values they associate with sustainable brands: integrity, trust and authenticity.
As companies seek to help consumers navigate an ever overcrowded sea of choices toward their product line, sustainability can be an important competitive differentiator on shelf – as long as it can be communicated in a meaningful manner. Consumers expressed willingness to buy products from companies that align with their personal values. This creates an opportunity for brands to become a functionally and emotionally relevant solution at purchase
For more information on BuzzBack’s Sustainability study (or the one on Healthy), click here.