Target and other retailers launch new labelling system to convey subtler sustainability claims

In the packaging industry, sustainability can mean many things – some of which can be more difficult to convey to consumers than others on product labels. For instance, while the recycling symbol is well known and relatively easy to spot on product packaging on store shelves, brands are having a harder time communicating subtler sustainability claims, such as use of recycled content and other source-reduction efforts.

Last month, Target launched its Target Zero labeling system to address this challenge. The new labels aim to help identify products and packaging that are designed to be refillable, reusable, compostable, made from recycled content, or made from materials that reduce use of plastic. On its website, the company also allows shoppers to filter results by product category as well as by sustainability claim.

Gordon Food Service launched a similar labeling program in December 2021 via its Re.Source brand of products. Re.Source product labels are designed to share an operator’s sustainability story while educating consumers through labels with bold colors, icons, and clear instructions to promote proper disposal of products.

With Packaging, Source Material Is Consumers’ Top Sustainability Priority

While sustainability is a complicated concept that includes factors such as protection of the product from damage or waste and reducing carbon needed for transport, consumers most widely equate the eco-friendliness of a packaging product with what the source material is:

  • According to consumer survey data collected by The Freedonia Group, packaging made from bioplastics was ranked highest in sustainability among US consumers.
  • Paper-based options such as paper, paperboard, and corrugated board were also ranked highly in perceived eco-friendliness.
  • Conventional plastics were ranked lowest in perceived eco-friendliness.

As a result, bio-based packaging materials such as cellulose and molded fiber will see solid growth going forward, particularly in the food market but also other applications where plastic packaging has historically been used, such as household and personal care products. For instance, a recent Freedonia Group analysis of the food packaging market projects double-digit growth from a negligible base for molded fiber materials such as bamboo and sugarcane, which are just starting to see use in commercial food packaging.

Want to Learn More?

See Food Packaging Consumer Insights and other titles in The Freedonia Group’s collection of packaging industry studies.

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