Consumers prefer glass as a packaging material for food and drinks, according to a pan-European survey by independent research consultancy InSites.
Reflecting the growing desire among consumers to live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, glass is preferred because it preserves the taste of its contents, is considered to be healthy and safe; and – since it can be recycled endlessly – is very environmentally friendly.
Commissioned by FEVE (the European Container Glass Federation), the InSites study asked over 8,000 consumers in 17 countries across Europe about their perception of different packaging materials. The survey reveals that 65% of consumers prefer glass because they believe it is best at preserving taste and 63% perceive that it is safest for their health, while almost half say it is the most environmentally-friendly form of packaging. Consumers also prefer glass for its suitability for “special occasions”, the prestige it offers, and its ability to keep products cooler for longer.
The survey’s findings strongly reflect a growing trend among consumers: the desire to live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. This has been seen in the booming organic foods market, the return to popularity of home-cooking and preserving, and an increasing awareness and interest in our foods’ sources and ingredients. In tandem with this health-awareness, recycling rates have grown steadily over the past decade – with the latest figures showing that 67% of glass is now being recycled in Europe – showing consumers’ concern for the environment.
While consumers prefer glass, in some cases preference far exceeds actual usage, demonstrating that there is an opportunity for manufacturers to better meet the needs of their consumers. While glass is the most used form of packaging across all alcoholic beverage segments – reflecting consumers’ preferences – this is not the case in some other product categories. Despite 39% of consumers preferring to buy water in glass, only 11% currently do so, for example, with a similar picture in fruit juices and soft drinks. For yoghurts, milk and desserts, there is an even greater disparity between preference and usage. In fact, the survey reveals that a substantial proportion of European consumers would be willing to pay more for products packaged in glass – particularly for milk, yoghurts, fruit juices and wine.
“When you look at the way we as consumers have developed in the past decade, it’s not surprising that glass is gaining popularity,” says Jonathan Marshall, European
Marketing Director of O-I – the world’s leading glass packaging manufacturer. “Where artificial preservatives and additives were once accepted, and the emphasis was on convenience rather than taste, consumers are now looking for authentic products that taste as fresh and natural as possible.”
Homogenous and inert, glass packaging preserves the taste of its contents naturally, with no need for an inner barrier or lining, which is why it has long been the preferred material for spirits, wines and beers – products where flavour is everything.
Protecting not only the taste but also the aroma and texture of what’s inside, glass is also the perfect material for packaging fresh products made from pure, natural ingredients, such as fruit juices, smoothies and tomato-based sauces. Reflecting this, the InSites survey reveals that the preference for glass is particularly high when it comes to certain food and drink categories – namely alcoholic beverages, water, juices, soft drinks and dairy products. ´
Consumers associate glass packaging with health benefits for a number of reasons.
Firstly it keeps the “good things” such as vitamins in – 50% of those questioned in the
InSites survey believe that glass best preserves nutritional values.
Secondly, glass is perceived as “safe” for consumers’ health, offering reassurance at a time when the potential health risks of other materials such as PET are being debated by health professionals and reported in the media. These concerns have recently led the European Commission to publish a recommendation that parents use glass baby bottles.
Demonstrating consumers’ health concerns, the survey shows that most European consumers believe that the packaging materials used for food and beverages may cause chemical interactions with the contents inside, but in the case of glass, this interaction is considered to be the lowest of all packaging materials (12%). Made from natural raw ingredients and a trusted packaging material for over 3,000 years, glass actually poses no threat of chemical reaction and is completely safe for consumers’ health.
In the InSites survey, nearly half of European consumers rank glass as the most environmentally-friendly packaging product, with almost 80% saying that glass can be recycled into the same or similar packaging without any loss of quality – outranking all other materials. Displaying consumers’ increasing awareness of the green benefits of glass, 48% of people believe that glass is the least harmful packaging material for the environment, rising from 37% two years ago, and an overwhelming majority say that they recycle their glass.
The survey shows that as consumers’ health- and environment-consciousness grows, glass is becoming more and more relevant, and consumers are keen to learn more about the benefits of glass. “Friends of Glass” – the European consumer forum initiated by FEVE (the European Container Packaging Federation) – is gaining momentum, with 65% of survey respondents saying they had more positive opinions about glass having seen the initiative and 60% indicating an intention to change their purchasing behaviour.
Jonathan Marshall says: “Today’s informed consumers want to make choices that have a positive impact on their own and their families’ health, as well as the health of the planet. Pure, natural and 100% recyclable, glass is completely in-tune with this trend towards a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle: it’s not surprising that 40% of consumers would recommend glass as a packaging material to their friends and family.”