SIAL Talks: The packaging revolution for a cleaner future

October 18, 2023

This week, we take a look back at a SIAL Talks presentation from December 2022 which highlights the developing packaging revolution.

The speaker for this session was Marion Hervé, Senior Trends and Innovation Planner at Paris-based branding and packaging agency, Team Creatif, and she noted how, in the face of material shortages and supply difficulties, and to meet consumer demands, sustainable packaging is becoming increasingly important.

She said that in 2019, around 178kg of packaging waste was generated per person in Europe. “That is huge. And it continues to increase every year. That’s why the same question is on all this today. How do we stop endless streams of this waste from polluting our planet?”

Hervé spoke about the developments from water soluble solutions to compostable options made from mycelium, seaweed or agar. She said that in the years to come these options would “make unrecyclable plastic a thing of the past and will reduce our dependence on petroleum”.

However, she also highlighted how far we have to go, and the disparity between consumer perception about sustainable options and the reality of it.

She commented: “Some of this packaging that makes claims of compostability leads consumers to believe that they are behaving more sustainably than they are. For example, only 22% of consumers are aware that some compostable packing needs industrial facilities to break it down. Meanwhile, 69% of consumers believe that it will naturally decompose but that is not true today, although it will likely be the case in the future. Materials are becoming home compostable, but they must fully compostable within eight weeks to be certified as such.”

In addition to these misconceptions, she said there was suspicion amongst consumers about claims of sustainability made by brands.

“Over 50% of consumer agree that manufacturers only care about profit and eco claims are just another marketing tool.”

In addition, she said that although consumers have good intentions and want to purchase eco-friendly options – 62% of people try to buy eco-friendly, but only 24% of people are regularly doing it, partly because of the cost of these options sometimes being prohibitive.

“This cognitive dissonance is totally normal. Why? Because packaging is necessary. It offers protection but also offers visibility for brands and consumers.”

“There are lots of new solutions that are improving, but the consumer today is not ready to have packaging just because it’s sustainable. So, ideal packaging doesn’t exist just as zero packaging doesn’t exist either.”

She went on to say that it is “undeniable that change is necessary”. And this change of mindset marks the beginning of a brand-new era. Brands are now pouring millions of dollars into cleaner production, and also into their carbon neutrality commitments.

“But infrastructure improvements need to be made, though we are facing a sustainable packaging revolution. The packaging industry is looking at commercially viable solutions which boosts efficiency and reduces the rubbish going to landfill.”

Looking to the future, Herve talked about the mission to design fair packaging for a cleaner future. “What is fair packaging? It is better for people and brands with a positive impact, offering all the necessary functions to make products accessible for all and sustainable for the long term.”

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