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Food Packaging Choices: Sustainability Trumps Novelty

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An independent research study conducted by MindClick Global on behalf of the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), found that when asked about sustainability in food packaging choices, two-thirds of consumers preferred steel cans.

The results support findings that consumers consider sustainability to be a major driving force for purchase decisions. This notion is further supported by recent studies that rank packaging sustainability as a high priority among purchase decision makers at consumer package goods companies.

The study directly compared various packaging types within the soup category. Results revealed that when asked about food packaging and sustainability:

• The steel can is the preferred packaging by a factor of 3:1, based on product features of recyclability, quality of taste, shelf life, safety and maintaining nutritional value, in a direct comparison between the steel can, pouch and carton;

• Consumer interest in products packaged in steel cans ranked as important as their consideration for the nutritional value, organic ingredients and packaging design; and

•  As a package type, cans are perceived as the best at providing complete protection for packaged foods and shelf life.

The research also revealed a lack of strong preference for carton and pouch packaging compared to steel cans, a fact consistent with category behavior and contrary to recent studies, according to SMDI. Focus group research also indicates that when Millennials, who are among the highest weekly purchasers of soups, meats and seafoods, are educated about steel’s sustainability, there is a jump in consumer preference. With growing demand for easily recyclable material, sustainable packaging trumps novelty.

“Steel currently accounts for two-thirds of packaging material for more than 1,500 variations of food, pet food, paint, household products, health and beauty products,” said Lawrence W. Kavanagh, president of SMDI. “Steel is the most recyclable material on earth, with 88 percent of steel being continuously recycled. And unlike cartons and plastics, recycled cans are used over and over for both cans and all other steel application without loss of quality.”

SMDI recently launched SteelCan.com, an education site that highlights the sustainability of steel. The site features an infographic showing the story of steel from inception—iron scattered through space from the end of a star’s final stages as a supernova—to its production, packaging, distribution and continuous recycling. The site also shares consumer testimonials that highlight their preference for sustainable packaging options.



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