The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly transformed consumer behavior in several ways: sparking higher price sensitivity, accelerating online shopping across all categories, and causing shoppers to focus even more on health, wellness, and hygiene. Consumer attitudes about sustainable packaging have also changed significantly. Before the pandemic, public awareness that packaging can leak into the environment had increased a good deal. Fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG) companies and retailers were making big commitments to sustainable packaging, and regulatory bodies were moving decisively on the issue.

To understand how consumer thinking has evolved since then, McKinsey launched a survey in ten countries around the world to explore consumers’ attitudes toward sustainable packaging. Responses from the US consumers who took part in the survey have uncovered five key findings. First, consumers actually rank overall sustainability relatively low as a buying criterion among end-use factors; they regard price, quality, brand, and convenience as more important. Indeed, even when we look specifically at packaging, it seems that hygiene, shelf life, and convenience rank significantly higher than environmental impact. The pattern is similar in the other countries McKinsey surveyed.

The paper is authored by David Feber who is a partner in McKinsey’s Detroit office.

Daniel Nordigården is an associate partner.

Anna Granskog is a partner in the Helsinki office. Oskar Lingqvist is a senior partner in the Stockholm office.

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Sustainability in packaging: Inside the minds of US consumers

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