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Communicating Packaging Functionality for Food Waste Reduction Influences Consumer Choices



Packaging and packaging technology have a great potential in increasing shelf life and reducing food waste, especially at the level of consumer households. In recent years, more and more fresh fruits and vegetables in Norwegian supermarkets have been packed in plastic to increase shelf life, and smaller packaging units have been proposed for example on cold cuts. However, little is known about how such optimized packaging affects consumer choices, especially as at the same time, focus on the negative environmental impacts of plastic has increased in the society. The purpose of the study was (i) to investigate consumers’ attitudes to food packaging and (ii) to investigate the influence of providing information about packaging functionality on consumer choices. Firstly, focus group discussions were conducted with members of a food-waste reduction Facebook group (n=7) and with random consumers (n=5). Participants discussed food packagings one liked or disliked, in particular with regard to food waste. Participants illustrated their arguments with photos taken at home. Secondly, a choice-based consumer study (n=190) was conducted on packaging of fruit/vegetables, sushi and salami. For half of the participants, the optimized packaged product alternatives were labelled with explanatory information, e.g. “Packaged for longer shelf life” on fresh vegetables. Choice of packaging was analyzed in light of socio-demographic parameters, attitudes to food waste and purchase habits. Focus group discussions indicated a negative attitude to plastic packaging on fruits and vegetables, especially in the group most sensitive to food-waste and environmental issues. The web experiment indicated that consumer choices for optimized packaging depend on age, gender, purchase frequency and product type. In general, informing about packaging functionality significantly influenced consumer choices towards optimized packaging. This study highlights the importance of communicating packaging functionality with regards to shelf-life extension and food waste reduction to the consumer, in particular to environmentalists.


consumer, food waste, packaging, functionality, communication.Text


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