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Organic shoppers expect sustainable packaging

Businesses selling organic products can gain a competitive advantage by using more circular, sustainable packaging, according to new research.

A Soil Association survey found that over half (55%) of shoppers expect organic fresh produce packaging to have a low or no environmental impact. Two out of five (42%), meanwhile, expect organic products to be packaged in materials that are more environmentally friendly than non-organic alternatives.

Non-recyclable packaging was the biggest cause of concern for almost half (48%) of those surveyed followed by excess packaging (42%) and plastic packaging (37%).

Non-recycled plastic was the least preferred packaging option and the biggest barrier to purchasing organic fresh produce with 50% saying they won’t buy a product packed in non-recycled plastic compared to just 11% who are put off by recyclable plastic.

The Soil Association said this suggested a move away from people solely focusing on plastic pollution with key concerns broadening to encompass reusability and recyclability of packaging and its ability to be part of a circular economy.

The greatest proportion (27%) of shoppers want to see organic fresh produce sold loose with cardboard and paper (22%) the next favoured option.

“The evidence is clear that there is a significant opportunity for organic fresh produce businesses to evolve and to seize a competitive advantage by meeting the environmental needs of customers and providing helpful information about the sustainability, recyclability and eco-credentials of their packaging,” said Soil Association senior business development manager Sophie Kirk.

Sales of organic fruit, vegetables and salad increased by 12% year-on-year to June 2021. The Soil Associations said the growth trend appeared to have focused consumer thoughts around the sustainability of packaging these products are sold in.