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Generation Z And Consumer Trends In Environmental Packaging

PACKAGING. Project Report. The Retail Institute, Leeds.
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Authors: Ben Mitchell & Dr Martina Topic
1ntroduction: Developments in environmental packaging research
Consumers and the environment research review
The value of generational research
Introducing Generation Z
Z Consumers
Generation Z’s environment
Generation Z – Summary
Generations: shopping, the environment and packaging
Generation X and Older
Online shopping
Importance of environmental issues
Personal action on environmental issues
Generation X – Summary
Generation Y/ Millennials
Online shopping
Importance of environmental issues
Personal action on environmental issues
Generation Y/ Millennials - Summary
Generation Z
Online shopping
Importance of environmental issues
Personal action on environmental issues
Generation Z – Summary
Mixed Generation Groups
Importance of environmental issues
Personal action on environmental issues
Mixed Generation Groups – Summary
Focus Groups Summary
Report Summary
Whether it is minimising food waste, recycling
correctly or adjusting to new packaging designs
that use different materials, the actions of
consumers are key to the success or failure of
product and packaging design interventions.
Manufacturers and retailers need consumers to
understand changes generated to reduce
carbon footprint or limit waste going to landfill.
This report considers the value of consumer
insights to the potential effectiveness of
strategies aimed at reducing the environmental
impact of packaging. In particular, it looks at
how generational research, with a particular
focus on Generation Z, can help to identify
trends in consumer attitudes and behaviour.
The report begins with a brief review of
academic research published in the last year
that analyses environmental packaging from a
range of consumer perspectives. It then
provides a profile of Generation Z based on
emergent findings from a range of sources. It
also includes a summary of generation’s
attitudes and likely behaviour with regard to the
environment. We also report on the findings of
focus groups conducted by The Retail Institute
that sought to identify the specific shopping
motivations and pro-environmental behaviour
of different generational and class groups.
To begin with, the consumer aspect of the
environmental impact of a change in
packaging design is the subject of a study
published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.
Researchers conducted an environmental
analysis of packaging-derived changes in food
production and consumer behaviour[1].
Previous analysis of the trade-off between the
benefits of packaging functionalization and
the increased environmental impact from
packaging production did not account for
consumer behaviour, despite being key to
reducing food loss and waste (FLW) and
reducing environmental impacts.
Yokokawa and colleagues attempted to tackle
this missing aspect using ‘consumer behaviour
scenario analysis’ and a ‘break-even rate of
food loss’. Their study looked at packaging-
derived changes in food production for milk
and cabbage products. They found that
extending the expiry date and apportioning
the package size of milk products have the
potential to reduce FLW and global warming
potential (GWP). The total GWP decreased in
several behaviour scenarios when consumers
discarded the food after the expiration date or
a few days after opening.
However, apportioning the package size of
cabbage could have a negative effect on the
total environmental impacts. Although it was
effective for consumers eating after the expiry
date, apportioning the package size of
cabbage products induced an increase in the
GWP of food production. The study found that
to decrease the GWP effectively by
apportioning the package size of a cabbage,
the apportionment of the package size must
lead to saving more than half of the edible
Recent academic research reflects the increased
scrutiny and expectation of the last few years
and many studies published in the last year are
relevant to environmental packaging. These
cover diverse topics including consumer
perceptions, packaging design and functionality,
food waste, labels, waste management and
methods of life cycle analysis.
Consumers and the
environment research review
Further research relating to consumers and
pro-environmental packaging has looked at
purchase intentions for bioplastics[2]. The
study of German consumers found attitudes
towards toward bioplastics, green consumer
values and, most interestingly, bioplastic
product experience and knowledge all
influenced purchase intention. While the
purchase intention for bioplastic products for
all German citizens was around 56%, about 95%
of the consumers with product experience
intended to buy bioplastic products. The
experience and interest in information is key to
bioplastics as consumer understanding is still
developing. The differentiation of bioplastic
products from conventional plastics is not
obvious to consumers and the findings
suggest that overcoming that challenge could
be significant for increasing purchase
This study is part of other a wider group of
studies providing insight into consumer
preferences for new packaging designs. For
example, experiments conducted to assess the
effect of sustainable design strategies on
purchase intentions found positive responses
to circular designs (e.g. biodegradable
materials) compared to linear redesigns (e.g.
packaging lightweighting)[3].
In addition, consumers perceived packaging
redesigns that combined multiple
sustainable design strategies, as only
marginally more sustainable than packaging
with single strategy redesigns. Therefore,
there appear to be diminishing returns in the
moral satisfaction consumers achieve from
buying products with multiple sustainable
The way that products communicate
sustainability through packaging also
continues to be a topic of interest within
academia. This relates to both visual layout
and different types of labelling. A study
focusing on the ‘visual ecology’ of product
packaging notes that brand-related
packaging elements tend to be much more
visually conspicuous than characteristics such
as sustainability and nutrition[4].
The research also used a distinction between
top-down and bottom-up control factors that
influence consumer attention. Top-down
factors include goals, task instructions,
preferences, decision style, cognitive load,
involvement, task complexity and mood.
Bottom-up factors refer to the visual ecology
of a product, in terms of visual salience,
surface coverage and distance to centre.
The study challenges previous research
suggesting that top-down factors tend to
dominate bottom-up factors. However, analysis
of 158 consumer products found that visual
ecology (salience, size and distance to centre)
does influence the probability of consumers
fixating a packaging element and that top-
down control does not interfere with bottom-
up processes as much as previously assumed.
The value of studies like this are to identify
what could happen if retailers, brand owners or
possibly policy makers change the visual
ecology of packaging by enhancing the
visibility of sustainability or nutrition labels.
Small changes could lead to much higher
levels of consumer attention to sustainability or
nutrition, especially if consumers have a related
Another angle on consumer perceptions
concerns how people interpret the CSR
(corporate social responsibility) claims on
packaging. A study examining the effect of on-
package claims on perceptions of health
benefits, taste and attitudes and behavioural
intentions towards the company, found that
claims relating to food manufacturing,
employee welfare and eco-friendly packaging
all positively influence consumers’ intention to
purchase[5]. Consumer most positively
perceived employee welfare claims. They also
had impacts on consumers’ inferences of
product-related attributes, particularly when
the specific CSR claim are congruent with the
consumer inference. For example, food-
manufacturing claims are more strongly
associated with health-related consumer
inferences. The authors conclude from this
that consumers perceive CSR activities as
more credible when they are congruent with
the product’s attributes and image.
These studies are examples of the kind of
research on consumer packaging perceptions
that continue to offer insight into how new
materials, formats, designs and
communication methods may affect
consumer attitudes and behaviour.
Many other papers published in the last year
provide consumer-packaging insights from a
range of different countries where attitudes
and behaviour are likely to vary.
For example, a study of green packaging’s
impact on young Romanians’ environmental
responsibility found that the country has
relatively recently become preoccupied with
sustainability issues[6]. Noting the
importance of environmental information, it
emphasises the role of green marketing to
raise awareness and change consumer
behaviour. Another Romanian study found
that difficulties in finding information about
the packaging, along with price and costs,
was a major obstacle to purchasing green
Another international study has noted that
national cultures (in this case, Germany, France
and the US) differ in how they weigh the
relative impact of recyclability, reusability and
biodegradability, which suggests a need to
differentiate packaging strategies across
countries[8]. In addition, a study aimed at
developing a multidimensional measure of
consumer perceptions of eco-labelling involved
fieldwork undertaken in Malaysia, a country
described as a pioneer in Asia with respect to
promoting eco-friendly consumption[9]. There
are also studies observing the influence of
altruistic and egoistic values on Indian
consumers’ purchase intentions of eco-friendly
packaged products[10], an increase in
consumer awareness and purchase intention
of eco-friendly food packaging in Latvia and
the factors influencing young consumers’
purchase intentions in Indonesia[11].
These studies are a reminder of the
complexity of different factors that
determine consumer behaviour with
regard to packaged products.
Environmental knowledge and concern is
changing at different rates around the
world and within different demographic
segments. This is taking place alongside
continuing innovation to reduce the
environmental impact of packaging.
Continuing to monitor all of these dynamic
factors is an important role for researchers
and generational research is one area that
can offer insight. This is not only in terms of
the differences between age cohorts but
also as indicators of market trends. With
that in mind, The Retail Institute has
followed up on last year’s consumer survey
on environmental attitudes and
packaging-related consumer behaviour
with focus groups to understand the
perspectives of different demographic
The value of generational research
In 2017, the Retail Institute’s Consumer of the
Future annual report noted some of the
characteristics of the Millennial cohort
(Generation Y) with particular reference to the
influence of social media on consumer
behaviour. Businesses have focused on
Millennials for several years now as trend setters
and their emergence as the most powerful
market cohort. Increasingly, the attention is
moving to understand what we know so far of
the following cohort Generation Z.
Although definitions vary, Generation Z
were born between 1995 and 2010,
meaning that the oldest are in their early
20s while the youngest are not yet 10. This
means that our understanding of
Generation Z as a complete cohort is
incomplete and still developing. Much of
the existing research focuses on the older
part of the cohort, from around age 16 and
older. Because definitions do vary, analysis
of the younger of the Millennial cohort is
also relevant to understanding Generation
Z. Nonetheless, the research reported here
offers insight into a cohort whose life
experiences are the first indication of the
impact of growing up in a completely
digital world.
Generational research highlights how social,
cultural and technological changes influence
different segments of society. While some
generational differences may have more to do
with cultural or psychological influences,
studies of, and comparisons between
generations show the extent that those other
influences persist or evolve over time. If used
correctly, generational research promises great
value to marketers and retailers. It offers
insights into the current and future desires and
behaviours of different age cohorts. Analysis of
the attitudes and behaviours of different
generational cohorts suggest the likely
demands and expectations of future
consumers. This is particularly useful as we
learn about consumer intentions with regard
to the environment.
However, it is important to take care in the
interpretation of these trends. It is tempting to
make assumptions about the characteristics of
certain age groups based on observed
technological change. Some writers may
exaggerate the differences between
generations by interpreting events too simply
or drawing conclusions on data that relates
more to life stage than the experience of
cohorts born in a specific era. Pollsters Ipsos
Mori[12] distinguish between three types of
age-related analysis. ‘Period effects’ involve
people of all ages changing in a similar way
due to a societal shift or event. ‘Life cycle
effects’ are those changes in attitudes and
behaviours change that come as people get
‘As we continue to seek knowledge and
insight into consumer behaviour,
particularly in relation to packaging and the
environment, generational research
provides a valuable perspective. The
potential significance of social attitudes and
environmental awareness to consumer
choices adds to the value of observing the
effect of economic events and cultural shifts
on various consumer groups. Changing use
of media and shopping habits indicate the
approaches that retailers and brand owners
should use to communicate to Generation Z
‘Cohort effects’ reflect generational differences
in views and behaviours that people carry with
them through life. Recognising these
differences improves the accuracy and
reliability of generational research. It is also
important to remember that the differences
between cohorts are likely to be marginal in
that, for example, the youngest Millennials may
have more in common with the oldest from
Generation Z than with those who are the
oldest in their own generational group.
Generational research highlights how social,
cultural and technological changes influence
different segments of society. While some
generational differences may have more to do
with cultural or psychological influences, studies
of, and comparisons between generations show
the extent that those other influences persist or
evolve over time. If used correctly, generational
research promises great value to marketers and
retailers. It offers insights into the current and
future desires and behaviours of different age
cohorts. Analysis of the attitudes and behaviours
of different generational cohorts suggest the
likely demands and expectations of future
consumers. This is particularly useful as we learn
about consumer intentions with regard to the
However, it is important to take care in the
interpretation of these trends. It is tempting to
make assumptions about the characteristics of
certain age groups based on observed
technological change. Some writers may
exaggerate the differences between
generations by interpreting events too simply
or drawing conclusions on data that relates
more to life stage than the experience of
cohorts born in a specific era. Pollsters Ipsos
Mori[11] distinguish between three types of
age-related analysis. ‘Period effects’ involve
people of all ages changing in a similar way
due to a societal shift or event. ‘Life cycle
effects’ are those changes in attitudes and
behaviours change that come as people get
older. ‘Cohort effects’ reflect generational
differences in views and behaviours that
people carry with them through life.
Recognising these differences improves the
accuracy and reliability of generational
It is also important to remember that the
differences between cohorts are likely to be
marginal in that, for example, the youngest
Millennials may have more in common with
the oldest from Generation Z than with those
who are the oldest in their own generational
As we continue to seek knowledge and
insight into consumer behaviour, particularly
in relation to packaging and the environment,
generational research provides a valuable
perspective. The potential significance of
social attitudes and environmental awareness
to consumer choices adds to the value of
observing the effect of economic events and
cultural shifts on various consumer groups.
Changing use of media and shopping habits
indicate the approaches that retailers and
brand owners should use to communicate to
Generation Z effectively.
The first observation to make about Generation
Z is the diversity of the cohort. This is in terms of
both demographics and personal interests. They
are ethnically diverse, as the populations of
many countries have become increasingly
multi-cultural and multi-racial. With more
people living in urban areas, more young people
grow up exposed to a wider range of cultural
perspectives compared with previous
generations[13]. Multiple studies also suggest a
diversification of interest, describing the trend
within Generation Z as individuality[14], non-
conformism[15] and increased complexity and
nuance[16]. A survey of 1500 US students found
‘being different’ to be a trend, with people
within this group trying to be unique while still
belonging to a peer group[17].
While this may make it more difficult to
summarise this generation than it is for others, it
is an important distinction to state that, as Ipsos
Mori suggests, ‘lives are becoming more
stretched and varied within a cohort group’. The
survey organisation states that having more
ways to connect and experience things with
technology enables people to pursue their own
interests and engage with like-minded groups.
To add to this, there is a greater tendency for
younger people to shift their interests,
preferences and affiliations, which could be true
for both politics and shopping patterns.
A mixed methods study including social media
analysis, focus groups and expert interviews
described shifting identities and the ‘traditional
hallmarks of adulthood in flux’. This involves ‘age
compression and acceleration’ in which young
people appear to make adult choices and
decisions earlier while continuing certain aspects
of childhood into later years.
Related to this diversification and greater
tendency to change is the idea that
Generation Z are relatively more open-
minded and culturally aware. Commentators
hypothesise this greater awareness to come
from online access and growing up in a time
of turbulent world events[18]. An
international study of Generation Z noted
that the cohort has “spent their entire lives
online, and as a result, have been more
intimately exposed to the failings of the
powers-that- be to tackle world issues than
any generation preceding them” and this has
led to a breakdown in trust towards
traditional political and civic institutions. This
creates the potential for greater activism and
expectations that authorities – either
governmental or commercial – tackle
perceived injustices and environmental
Generation Z’s very high media use links
these trends together. Often described as
‘digital natives’, access to digital devices from
a young age has made them accustomed to
being connected at all times[19].
This full integration with technology[20] has
given them enhanced digital skills, the ability to
follow their interests and monitor world events.
It also has repercussions for shopping behaviour
and the way that Generation Z engages with
Aside from the sheer embeddedness in digital
technology, the cohort’s media usage is
significant for the choice of media and the way
it is used. The shift away from traditional cultural
media such as television and the greater use of
personal devices[21][22] and online channels for
viewing has important implications for
Furthermore, the kinds of behaviour that are
now habitual because living a life of digital
connectivity may have changed the core
motivations of young people as shoppers and
‘Life casting’[23], the practice of sharing one’s life
online, has created a need among social media
users to find novel products and experiences to
share. This promises to alter how people find
and choose products. The greater awareness of
social and environmental issues could
contribute to the desire to share products and
experiences that are perceived to be ‘doing
Z Consumers
The implications of Generation Z’s reported
characteristics for retail and marketing are that
the cohort is more varied and complex than
previous generations, making it difficult to
characterise with simple concepts or statements.
While it is important to re-emphasise that
differences between generations are very small
at the margins, there does appear to be some
consensus on the distinguishable features of
Generation Z consumer behaviours. This
includes a more pragmatic and cautious attitude
to money compared with Millennials and a
greater desire for unique and personal products
and experiences.
The greater price-consciousness of Generation Z
has a link to the economic circumstances they
have lived through so far. In addition to the
global financial crisis, the stagnation of young
people’s incomes, compared with those of older
people, has generated a greater cautiousness
among younger Millennials and Generation
Z[24]. The accuracy of this is still unclear.
However, some consumption patterns may
indicate greater discernment in product choices.
For example, Ipsos Mori states that there has
been a shift away from materialistic values, with
30% of teenagers in 2018 feeling that the things
they own say a lot about how well they are doing
in life, compared with 42% of teenagers in 2011.
Sun Branding Solutions’ Guide to Generation Z
distinguishes them from Millennials in that they
are less likely to spend lots of money on a single
designer item, preferring instead to make their
money go further. While it is still important for
them to be fashionable, designer brands is
somewhat less likely to be their strategy for
achieving it, as the table below suggests:
Related to this is the attitude towards brands.
In our 2017 Consumer of the Future report, we
noted that evidence did not support the
perception that Generation Y had become less
interested in brands compared with previous
generations. It was more likely that the
apparent differences in relationship with
brands were due to engagement through
different media channels. For Generation Z,
the idea of brand dealignment continues to be
compelling but the reality could relate more to
a need for new brand strategies. An article
citing multiple US-based surveys suggests
that quality is preferred to brands for around
four fifths of Generation Z[25]. However, Ipsos
Mori’s study found that 35% of teenagers still
feel brand names matter to them. The analysis
from that study suggests that lower
disposable income has contributed to a bigger
challenge for brands to maintain their appeal
to this generation. Ipsos Mori states, “The
importance of diversifying and retrofitting
brands to the budgets of younger people with
less disposable income will likely become ever
more important”[26].
The slight differences in brand relationship
could also relate to Generation Z’s behaviour
as online consumers. While Millennials are also
associated with higher levels of online
engagement (and people of all ages now shop
online), Generation Z may be distinct from
previous cohorts in that fewer of them spend
time watching television, listening to the radio
or reading print publications. Related to this is
their receptiveness to advertising.
IIn particular, the flexibility and convenience
demanded from retailers relates to creating
individualised products and experiences. This
is a key theme that emerges from the
extensive mixed methods study conducted by
US advertising agency RPA. The findings
suggest that brands must recognise
Generation Z on an individual basis and help
them to both improve and market
themselves[32]. Personalization, therefore, has
moved to a ‘hyper’ level that avoids rigid
categories and appeals to micro-interests[33].
A study comparing Gen Z with both Gens X and
Y found the youngest of these cohorts to be
most discriminating in their preferences for
advertisements. Generation Z was most positive
about more innovative advertising formats that
offered control over the viewing experience[27].
They tended to skip online adverts faster and
more frequently than previous generations. This
suggests a preference for interactivity such as
the opportunity to influence a story or outcome.
A US retail industry study found that 44% of Gen
Z respondents said they would like to submit
ideas for product design, given the
Related to this is the strong expectation among
Gen Z-ers that retailers continue to innovate in
delivering quality and convenience both online
and in stores. A study of Generation Z views of
smart retailing found that they expect
technology to make informed shopping
decisions easier and transactions quicker[29].
In terms of product choices, health is
common feature of Generation Z studies.
Ipsos Mori state that access to technology,
social media and the impacts of government
interventions have contributed to healthier
behaviour within this cohort. They are also less
likely to indulge in unhealthy behaviours such
as smoking and drinking, reflecting general
social change and the shift to online
activities[34]. Specifically, there has been a
drop in teenage consumption of free sugars in
England between 2010 and 2016 and a drop
(29% to 18%) in adolescent daily consumption
of soft drinks between 2002 and 2015. Sun
Branding Solutions also note health
consciousness of Generation Z, highlighting
the influence of the greater efforts of
Generations X and Y in this regard. There is
also a tendency for more sophisticated food
choices, a reflection of the diverse cultural
influences experienced by this cohort.
Despite the characterisation as digital natives,
this still includes in-store retailing. One survey
in the US found that almost two thirds of
Generation Z prefer shopping in-store to
online, and three-quarters of respondents
preferred an engaging in-store experience[30].
As one student of Gen Z suggests, “This
generation of children has grown up in a world
where many everyday objects and media
experiences are dynamic, clickable, and
It is almost inevitable that researchers and
commentators will link Generation Z’s attitudes
and behaviour relating to the environment to
the online media use. The greater awareness
and empowerment promised by social media
means that many expect this cohort to hold
stronger views on environmental issues
compared with previous generations. Although
technology has made age or personal
prominence less important in determining
individual impact, Ipsos Mori’s evidence
suggests that Generation Z’s activism on social
causes is just equal to other generations.
However, there is clearly a strong pro-
environmental element within this the cohort
with surveys finding that 47% of Gen Z in the US
has stopped purchasing their favourite brand
after finding the manufacturer did not produce
environmentally friendly products[35] and 45%
choose brands that are eco-friendly and socially
responsible[36]. Interviews with marketing
executives support these views, as they perceive
Generation Z as having greater expectations
that brands demonstrate their care for the
environment with action rather than words[37].
Generation Z’s Environment
The differences between generations may only
be marginal and the attitudes of Generation Z
as a whole cohort are still emergent. Therefore,
some of the latest literature on Millennials,
particularly those at the younger end of that
cohort, could be indicative of what to expect
from Generation Z. For example, the question
of whether Millennials’ greater pro-
environmental attitudes translate into
behaviour are behind studies into their
particular motivations as consumers. Nielsen’s
2015 study found that around three quarters of
Millennials were willing to pay more for brands
compared to only half of baby boomers (born
before 1965)[38]. A study of young Millennials
suggests that this willingness may be mostly
self-interest as Millennials demonstrated more
rational and self-oriented rather than
emotional and others-oriented motives leading
them to act pro-environmentally[39]. The
authors suggest that while Millennials grasp
the environmental consequences of their
actions, they have not yet integrated their
beliefs and actions completely. They also note
that psychographic variables such as altruism,
frugality, risk aversion and time orientation,
have more explanatory power than
demographic variables.
Other influences on cause-related consumer
behaviour include brand loyalty and trust in
companies. A survey of Italian Millennials found
that both trust and loyalty played a key role in
affecting consumers' willingness to support
corporate social responsibility initiatives of food
companies. It found that trust in cause-related
marketing CRM campaigns and environmental
concern positively influenced consumers’
willingness to support a product. However,
brand loyalty can be a constraint to people
switching from a favourite snack to a similar
one supporting social and environmental
In another study of green purchase triggers, a
survey of young Millennials found that
environmental knowledge and environmental
concern were significant predictors of
environmentally conscious consumer
behaviour[41]. The study investigated issues
raised by previous research that revealed a gap
between the willingness to purchase green
products and actual behaviour. Prior studies of
environmental knowledge – defined as “the
‘general knowledge of facts, concepts, and
relationships concerning the natural
environment and its major ecosystems” –
found that it could not predict responsible
environmental behaviour on its own. The
influence of environmental concern – the
“evaluation of, or an attitude towards, the facts
of one’s own behaviour, or others’ behaviour,
with consequences for the environment” – may
influence green behaviour through higher
purchase intention or socially responsible
behaviour. The study also looked at the
significance of perceived consumer
effectiveness, the “belief that the efforts of a
consumer can make a difference in the
solution”, which previous literature suggested
was a strong predictor of environmentally
conscious behaviour. However, perceived
consumer effectiveness was not directly
related to environmentally conscious
consumer behaviour.
The study also found that although younger
shoppers placed the highest importance on
green issues, they did not integrate those
issues into their shopping practices to the
same extent as their older counterparts. This
suggests that younger Millennials’ concern
about the environment is not yet turning into
action. However, the strongest predictor of
environmentally conscious consumer
behaviour among the young Millennials was
environmental concern. This, in turn, was
associated strongly with environmental
knowledge. This suggests that
communication messages should offer
background information about
environmental issues that are relevant to a
product and its role in tackling ecological
Even if younger Millennials and Generation
Z are not yet transforming their attitudes
into action, their environmental knowledge
and beliefs could still develop into green
purchasing behaviour in later life. A
systematic review of studies investigating
sustainability in retail has characterised
Generation Z as showing very different
behaviour from previous generations in
being more sustainability oriented and
willing to choose retailers that are eager to
offer green products[42]. The authors
suggest that green strategies, either in
production processes or in marketing using
sustainable principles, are essential for
selling products to young people. Green
product features are no longer just an
added feature to improve sales but an
expected pre-requisite among
environmentally concerned young people.
Generation Z – Summary
In summary, it is very tempting to focus on the ‘digital natives’ aspect of Generation Z as its
defining characteristic. While this is certainly vital to our understanding of the cohort, it is also
important to recognise other social and economic influences. The diversity of the cohort
comes from them growing up in a multicultural world with access to greater range of ideas,
influences and tastes. Digital connectivity feeds that diversity. Economic and political
uncertainty has possibly made Generation Z more cautious financially and their awareness is
developing at an earlier life stage than was the case for previous generations. They are also
more aware of the need for health consciousness, generating particular shopping demands in
that regard.
The diversity of interest is individualising consumer behaviour more than ever. Personalisation
is becoming exaggerated to the point that young consumer demand products and
experiences that are unique. This is partly so that they can share them online and develop a
persona that has the flexibility change to over time.
With regard to the environment, existing research suggests that although there is not
significant difference in attitudes between Generation Z and previous generations, there is a
large segment of this group that have strong environmental views. As they develop further
into adulthood, gaining independence and financial stability, the impact of this may become
clearer than it is currently. However, it is likely that the expectations of much of Generation Z
will be for businesses to deliver low cost products that do minimum harm to the environment.
Generations: shopping, the
environment and packaging
We conducted eight focus groups, including
three mixed groups of middle-class men and
women and three mixed groups of working-
class men and women. In addition, we
conducted two focus groups of only (working
and middle class) female consumers.
Consumers self-defined their class and
usually related to their origin, i.e. their
upbringing rather than their current
occupational or social status. We also divided
the focus groups by generation – Generation
X and older, Generation Y (millennials) and
Generation Z.
We selected participants from those
expressing interest in the research from the
Retail Institute’s database of (mostly) Leeds-
based participants. The project team also
advertised through social media. In addition,
personal contacts helped to diversify the
sample. We conducted focus groups in May
and June 2019.
Consumers were asked a number of
questions regarding environmental issues
and consumer behaviour, e.g. whether they
shop for groceries online, what they think is
the most pressing environmental issue of
today, what they do personally to reduce
their environmental impact, and their views
on the packaging.
Therefore, the first visual offered
consumers major environmental issues
recognized by scholars and activists.
These encompass global warming, air
pollution, ocean plastic pollution,
deforestation, overpopulation, species
extinction and household and industrial
waste. The second visual encompassed
personal actions to reduce environmental
impact and these options included:
reduce carbon footprint, avoid or reduce
pollution, minimise resource use (water,
etc), avoid plastic, recyclability, paying for
eco-friendly goods and services. Finally,
the third visual provided logos for
recycling and handling waste and
consumers were asked whether they
know what each one means and whether
they use them when handling packaging
and waste.
Three visuals (figure 1) were used to offer
points of discussion to consumers and
avoid issues with group behaviour where
one consumer says something and many
others follow, sometimes simply because
they cannot remember any other answer.
As some groups had five consumers and
some six, and as not all groups are the same,
there was a time constraint and thus not all
consumers managed to answer the question
of online shopping and recognition of logos.
We made this decision to enable an in-depth
understanding of recognition of
environmental issues and personal action on
the environment, all seen as most relevant
for companies to decide on their sustainable
policies and public relations efforts when
promoting those policies. We present the
results below according to each group to
enable an in-depth understanding of
generational views.
Each group presentation includes a
summary of each group’s views. We have
included plenty of direct quotes from our
participants to provide an accurate
depiction of the way that many
consumers are likely to view the issues
discussed. In many cases, it shows the
struggle people experience in wanting to
achieve environmental objectives when
shopping but feeling constrained by time,
money or lack of choice.
Online shopping
Both the working and middle class
Generation X and Baby Boomer groups
demonstrated a mixture of perspectives on
online shopping. Some participants stated
they did online shopping when it was first
introduced because they saw it as an
advantage but were disappointed because of
missing or replaced products. Therefore,
some found it “more time-consuming buying
it online rather than actually going into the
shop myself and buying it myself” (Lucy).
Others stated that they like online shopping
for its convenience, particularly in regards to
the bulky and heavy goods but prefer to shop
in person for fresh produce, which helps
them manage shopping better (Amrit).
Alternatively, they found it helpful,
particularly for larger shopping missions at
times when they did not have a car (Wendy).
However, some consumers stated they never
shop online for groceries because they enjoy
going to the supermarket:
“I tend to do a big shop, but I am a visual
person, so I do not know what I want until I
see it. So, for me, having to search and scroll,
I just prefer to have everything in front of me,
so I quite enjoy going to the supermarket…”
“I sometimes do it, because it’s convenient
(…) but I don’t do it all the time because I
enjoy the experience of picking my own fruit
and veg, and being able to look at the offers,
just visual and tangible…” (Janine)
Another participant focused on aspects of
the experience of shopping in stores that are
lacking when shopping online:
“They don’t seem to have the produce that
you want, they don’t seem to have the
range, the deals don’t seem to be there.
There’s no big yellow sticker saying “3 for 2”,
all these things seem missing. There’s no
music being piped in which is making your
experience… (Christian)
Importance of environmental
In response to the visual on environmental
issues, participants in the oldest groups had
varied views in which was most important. One
consumer immediately answered that ocean
plastic was most important, adding littering as
the second major issue. This consumer
recognised the importance of public
awareness about the problem, which is not
always the case,
“Ocean plastic for me (…) I remember having
littering chats at school. We used to have to
make no littering posters when I was at
school thirty years ago, so I do not think it is
as relevant and as current as ocean plastic
pollution, which seems to be very relevant at
the moment and very much a topical
subject at the moment…” (Amrit).
However, global warming and plastic were an
issue for other consumers, who stated that
global warming has a dramatic effect on
people and species. Consumers also
recognised that individuals have the power to
do something, and they expressed irritation
with the amount of plastic in supermarkets,
“… it is within our capabilities as a species
to do something about it. So, I am not
completely pessimistic." (Dan)
“I went to the supermarket this morning
to get some bits for our breakfast and
everything was just in a plastic container
and I was just feeling wretched” (Wendy)
Generation X and Older
“I think I’d pick ‘Household and industrial
waste’. And the reason for that is because
it feels tangible, it’s closer to me… (Janine).
“When I had my first child I would just
buy, buy, buy. Clothes, food, and when
we’ve looked back at how much we’ve
spent in the past and how much we’ve
given away to charity or got rid of or just
thrown away, yes, that does make me feel
a bit sick really. So that’s the closest to
home… (Tracey)
However, consumers also recognise that
the pressure is on people to make a
difference whereas they do not perceive
that businesses are not doing enough.
“There seems to be pressure on us at
the bottom, doesn’t there, to change?
But there seems to be no will for it at
the top" (Christian).
“Because I’m sort of thinking my walk
to work is not going to… Well America’s
not going to buy into the agenda, or
whatever; it’s not going to make a
massive difference, but I do it. And the
same with the household and
industrial waste, I think more about
that. And because ocean plastic is so in
the news at the moment, I think that’s
a bit of a difficult thing in my head, but
I’m sort of saying, “Well I’m doing this,
but look at all the cars driving into
work” (Jenny).
Consumers in the working class Generation X
and older group mentioned global warming,
overpopulation, food waste and ocean plastic
pollution as the main environmental problems
in the present. For example, Sid stated that
global warming is a problem because “if we
carry on as we are, there’ll be none of us left. So
we’ve got to cut that out”. Those that stated
overpopulation justified this by saying that
every other issue is related to it (Christian) and
those who mentioned food waste did so
because food waste is something that
everyone can tackle,
Personal action on environmental issues
Choice of energy provider was the most
common way that the Generation X and Baby
Boomer group took personal action on
environmental issues. For example, consumers in
the middle class group stated they switched
energy provider to a more environmentally
friendly energy provider such as Bulb, not only to
reduce their environmental impact:
“I actually did not know it was a better energy
provider in that respect, but it was cheaper as
well than N-Power and that was my
motivator. But it is also better, more eco-
friendly, I believe” (Lucy).
Amrit emphasized problems with recycling
comparing the UK with the rest of the world
and arguing that other countries have more
recycling bins available,
We seem so far behind in that respect.
So, the bins, for example, the litter bins
on the high streets are quite basic,
whereas if you go abroad, you have got
this bit for this, you have got about five
sections to put your waste in, whereas
here, it is about two…” (Amrit)
In echoing this view, other consumers
emphasized the importance of education:
“Yeah, I just think more needs to be
done maybe for the other generations…
just to educate people of the simple
things they can do and find an outlet to
get the message over (…) I think the big
thing is that people recycle but there
are so many other things that people
are not doing … they would be able to fit
into their everyday lives and people are
just not aware. They do not know” (Cat)
Wendy added that she also recycles
whenever possible and saves on water and
equipment and goods, and she uses public
“If something is in a plastic bottle against
a glass bottle, I will go for that because I
think it is better to do that … I have got a
whole range of reusable bags that I take
with me. If I could afford it, I would pay for
eco-friendly goods, but unfortunately, it is
not something that I can do and it would
be great to afford solar panels, but again,
not something that I can. I do not waste
food, so I recycle clothes, make stuff, so I
use public transport every day. I do have a
car, but I do not drive it on a daily
commute basis…”
Some consumers, however, stated that they
do not believe in eco-friendly goods and
services because it costs a lot and they feel
like someone is making money off them,
“… I mean the ‘Eco-friends goods and
services’; I’m still not completely sold on that
because I think there’s a lot of people
making money out of that, and aren’t
actually that eco-friendly, and often again
because of budgets and less money, you
tend to go, “Well it would be lovely to buy
the eco-friendly bread – or whatever it is –
but it’s three times the price,” and when
you’ve got a family of four you can’t afford it.
But the other stuff, yes, I definitely try and do
everything. I cycle to work so I don’t use a
car to come into work…” (Stuart)
When asked about the importance of eco-
friendly packaging, the consumers in the
oldest groups responded that there are
supermarkets where they do not like
shopping because they perceive them as
irresponsible when it comes to plastic.
However, they recognized Morrisons as a
supermarket that makes more effort,
“I try very hard not to shop Aldi, Lidl,
Asda because they have pretty much
reduced the number of open fruit and
veg, everything is in plastic, so I tend to
go more for Morrison’s, which I do think
does try more than any of the others to
provide you with a choice and they have
also stopped using plastic bags for fruit
and veg; they use paper bags. So, I do if I
have to, but it drives me crazy when I go
into these places, considering what we
are all going through at the moment.
Everything is wrapped in plastic…”
One consumer said that cost is a factor
that influences shopping decisions as
more environmentally friendly produce
tends to be more expensive. She expressed
criticism of supermarkets for not doing
enough to influence changes:
“It is like gluten-free food. That is all
expensive because that is not the norm
and anything that is not the norm is just
so expensive. I do think supermarkets
have such a big responsibility, such a
big responsibility” (Cat)
Other consumers described
the difficulty of avoiding
plastic and recognised the
need to educate people
more about the issue:
“I would if I could; I
find it difficult.
Because nothing’s
not wrapped in
plastic, is it? Even if
you go to the loose
fruit and veg it’s
generally a plastic
bag that you get to
put it in” (Christian)
“I think it’s educating people. The
supermarkets have gone far too much
down the road of ‘everything’s got to
look perfect’, and I think people then
get that mindset that your fruit’s got
to be perfect, your veg has got to be
perfect otherwise it’ll spoil, and people
actually think that’s what it is. So it’s a
bit of re-education there that actually
it doesn’t really matter…” (Stuart).
In addition, some consumers recognise the
difficulty of being more environmentally
conscious when shopping for a family and
thus see environmentalism as a single
person’s issue,
“I think if you’re single you can shop
locally, take your own plastic bag, get
the loose fruit and veg put in, go to the
fish shop and just get that wrapped;
that’s one way of avoiding it. But I
recognise that when I had a family with
me there’s no way I would have had the
time to do that…” (Jenny)
In addition, consumers felt that there is a
problem with bin collection because some
items require washing before they can be
recycled and this leads to the issue of using
more washing-up liquid which is also
damaging for the environment. There was also
scepticism about businesses’ approaches
sustainable packaging:
Consumers also stated that they do not look at
recycling logos when purchasing products,
thus stating that their purchase decisions are
not influenced by environmental concerns.
They also reported a lack of recognition and
understanding of logos:
“I think the big business is scaremongering
and going, “Well if we made everything
recyclable it would cost loads more to buy it,
so, therefore, we’re keeping the prices down
for you.” And it’s actually, “No, you’re keeping
the prices down to make more profit.” And
actually, if everything was recyclable and
everyone bought the same thing the prices
might come down anyway because everyone
would be using the same products” (Stuart)
“The coca-cola lids, “Oh look at what we’ve
done, we’ve reduced the plastic to save the
environment.” No you haven’t, you’ve saved
2p a lid which is worth millions of pounds to a
big company like you” (Christian)
“I recognise some of them but it doesn’t
influence my decision. And I try and recycle,
and I try to encourage my family to recycle,
but it’s not something that I check” (Janine)
“It’s not something I check when I buy, but
when we throw the stuff away we do check,
mainly because it’s really frustrating – I think
the point I made before – that some things
aren’t recyclable. Because you think, “Why
is that not recyclable?” (Stuart) Some consumers also expressed frustration
with buying products that look like cardboard
but appears to be plastic once they open it, and
they also mentioned that they read logos and
labels after the purchase and sometimes it is
too late. In addition, some consumers stated
that a traffic light system would be good if it
was on products alerting consumers that the
packaging is not recyclable at all. They also
noted the difficulty of dealing with ‘check
locally’ logos because of local councils having
different collection policies.
Generation X - Summary
Consumers in the Generation X and older group preferred to shop in person, and those who shop for
groceries online did so out of convenience, which is related to bulky items, lack of transport and
having to manage time. Those consumers preferring not to shop online mentioned the tradition and
discounts available in store.
When it comes to environmental issues, middle class consumers recognized littering and ocean
plastic pollution but also linked global warming with all other issues such as pollution and species
extinction. The working class consumers of this generation saw global warming, ocean pollution,
overpopulation and food waste as the most relevant problems of today.
On personal actions, consumers mostly engaged with recycling, but indicated a need for more
knowledge on how to recycle. Some also try to walk as much as possible and use public transport
while some consumers had become aware of the environmental impact of their food consumption.
There was criticism of supermarkets for not doing enough to reduce plastic and help consumers
reduce environmental impact. Consumers found it difficult to avoid plastic and buy more sustainable
packaging. There was a feeling that the pressure to do something about the environment is on
people rather than big businesses. Finally, Generation X and Baby Boomers did not recognise all logos
and tended to read them after the purchase, thus admitting that environmentalism might not
influence the purchase decision.
Online shopping
The millennials group described mixed
feelings and tendencies toward online grocery
shopping. For example, Sarah stated she tried
online shopping “Once just to see how it went”
and saw it more as:
“A time management thing. I thought it
could save time in future if we do it
because you save your shop, don't you? If
you don't have time, you can just buy
again what you bought last time. So I
think that's why we tried it, but I've only
done it once. Prior to that, we were just
going to the shop when we needed to”.
Others said that they shop online for groceries
“it tends to be non-perishable heavy items
because we live in an apartment and I
don't have a car.” (Katie)
“Just to top up, but also I sometimes order
stuff from Amazon now, because you can
get it on the day if you have forgotten it.
But that's the only time I've ever bought
groceries online”. (Liam)
The reason for not shopping online seems to
be about the routine of going to supermarkets
and because shopping online for groceries
does not always feel right. There appeared to
be an attitude towards online grocery that
was distinct from other kinds of online
“I do a lot of online shopping outside of
groceries in fact, I do most of my
shopping online – but for groceries, it
doesn't feel right” (Liam)
“It just feels very wrong. I'm used to
going to the market, and actually, at the
market, I can choose how much I want,
and how it looks, so I've never bought
groceries online”. (Tadala)
Some other consumers stated that they will do
a big shop online, but then if they need
anything specific to make a meal in the evening
they will go to the shop personally to get that.
Within the working class millennials group,
those who shopped online said they prefer it
because they find it easier to budget or because
they do not have a car:
“When we do it in the supermarket, we’re
like, ‘Oh, that looks good, that looks good.’
You kind of think that you are adding it
up as you’re going around, but it’s always
£20 or £30 more expensive than you
calculated it to be.” (Chris)
Those who do not shop online say they prefer
going to the supermarket to see what they are
buying, take advantage of offers, or to provide
diversity in their shopping baskets.
The most important
environmental issues today
There was a variety of views among millennials
on environmental issues at present. Sarah
stated global warming was most important,
“…because it is the overarching issue and
everything else falls within that. But I think,
at the minute, it is a lot about waste, so I
guess it would be household and industrial
waste, but it falls under global warming as
a whole”.
Katie's view on ocean plastic pollution was
influenced by the area where she grew up,
where “people’s livelihood depends on people
going to the beach and having the oceans
clean, and seafood, so that strikes right at the
heart of where I live”. However, some other
consumers saw overpopulation as a problem
because that issue conditions all other issues
and felt that there is not that much they can do
since there are countries that do not bother,
such as China,
“I think at the moment, everybody’s
going on about global warming, but I
have often thought, what can I do? My
little bit, I know you shouldn’t think like
that, but will it really make a difference,
when you’ve got countries like China
that don’t seem to bother at all?”
Others in this group did feel that global
warming and plastic pollution were the
main issues.
“I suppose, global warming is the thing
you always think about when you’re
concerned about what is going to
happen in 100 years’ time or something.
Ocean plastic pollution bothers me
because I went and worked at a turtle
hatchery, [laughing] so now I’m like, the
turtles, we need to save them” (Vicky)
Personal action on
environmental issues
Most consumers in the middle class
millennials group mentioned that they were
trying to avoid plastic. For example,
“This year, I said that I’d try not to buy a
plastic bottle this year, and I've
managed it so far. And I think plastic
straws as well, just because of David
Attenborough, I try not to use them…”
“I do generally try to avoid plastic. I'm
not militant about it, but I definitely
prefer to try not to use plastic. I
normally drink out of a water bottle, a
hiking water bottle…” (Liam)
Some other consumers stated they try to
minimize the resources they use, water and
electricity in particular, or try to walk to most
places to reduce their environmental impact.
Among the working class millennials,
consumers again recognized that changing
energy providers as a personal action to
reduce environmental impact.
“I looked at electric cars. The problem is,
you have to spend a lot to get the
electric car. It’s the same with solar
panels, you have to spend that money
to see the savings. You’ve got to have
the money first, to make the savings
there. That’s something I want to do, or
cycle, but then it all depends on good
cycle lanes as well…” (Joe)
Other consumers mentioned trying to
walk to work, avoiding plastic and buying
disposable products,
“I try to walk back from work every day.
It’s partly to save money, but also, when I
did use to drive quite a long way, I did
feel a bit guilty about it. So, I have
reduced my carbon footprint a bit (…) I
generally try to recycle, although
occasionally, if I’m tired, and something’s
really dirty, I wouldn’t bother, but
generally, I do tend to recycle…” (Lyndsey)
However, consumers reported some
difficulties with going green,
I think avoiding plastic is the only one I
might consciously think of. I would like
to recycle more, but I feel like
everywhere else has loads of bins where
it’s done for you. Where I live (…) we’ve
just got a skip. It’s not really an option”
“I try to buy things that are going to last
a long time, clothes and technology. I
know technology dies, but I try to if I’m
going to buy a laptop, I will pay a few
quid more to make it last a couple of
years longer and keep it. A lot of stuff
makes economic sense as well. With a
lot of my clothes, I will go and get them
mended…” (Chris)
Most of the middle class millennial
consumers stated that the whole issue of
plastic is new to them and while they do
care about the issue, it does not
necessarily stop them from buying
anything. For example, Sarah stated,
“I'm not making any changes to what
I'm buying yet. It's more that after I buy
it, and when I get home, I'll look at the
packaging and think, actually, that's
not that great, or that is quite good.
And then I do it that way, so I know for
next time, but at the minute, I'm aware
of it, but I haven't made any changes”.
Katie stated that she is trying to buy more
aluminium cans when she goes out during
weekends and this is because aluminium is
easier to recycle than plastic. Liam
admitted that it does not stop him from
buying a product but it is something he will
consider when making a purchase decision,
“If there were two products, and one
was aggressively packaged and not very
recyclable, and the other one wasn't,
and it was much more eco-friendly, I
would definitely go for the eco-friendly
one. But if I didn't have the choice
between the two, and it was just one
that was aggressively packaged, I'd
probably still buy the thing if I wanted it,
rather than not buy it at all. Which
probably isn't very good of me” (Liam).
Tadala stated, however, that she hadn’t
“thought about it all. I just buy what I like”. In
contrast, Chloe thought,
“about it all the time. Everything I buy,
I’ve been gradually trying to buy the
more eco-friendly versions. So I've
stopped buying plastic toothbrushes
and started buying bamboo ones. I'd
rather spend a bit more money and
know that they're not going to go into
The group acknowledged that more eco-
friendly packaged products would
encourage them to reduce plastic use.
However, they also admitted that they do not
always know what eco-friendly packaging is.
A lot of things have it pretty much
stamped on there if it's eco-friendly
because it's a selling point at the
moment. So if something is, I think it's
quite clear. It's mainly with new
products though. If it's with existing
products, it’s probably not as clear. You
feel like you have to sacrifice your
favourite brand or whatever it is if it's
not recyclable. So not having to sacrifice
what you actually want will probably
make people buy into that more”
Consumers also stated that it would be
good if big brands did more to encourage
reducing environmental impact. For
example, Katie directly called upon
supermarkets to do more,
“I like statistics, and I like facts and
things like that, so speaking about the
fact that I’m flying, it would be cool if
Morrisons said, ‘use your Morrisons card
and we can show that you reduce your
carbon footprint by this much by using
this much packaging.’ I know it's not
great, but it would make me feel a little
bit better if I could see a whole year's
worth, and it said, ‘we've been tracking
you, and you've used this much.’ That
would probably gamify it, using
gamification, to make you feel like, ‘I'm
going to get extra points if I make sure I
pick this packaging. It's a little bit
money, but it would make me feel a
little less guilty’”.
“I like statistics, and I like facts and
things like that, so speaking about the
fact that I’m flying, it would be cool if
Morrisons said, ‘use your Morrisons card
and we can show that you reduce your
carbon footprint by this much by using
this much packaging.’ I know it's not
great, but it would make me feel a little
bit better if I could see a whole year's
worth, and it said, ‘we've been tracking
you, and you've used this much.’ That
would probably gamify it, using
gamification, to make you feel like, ‘I'm
going to get extra points if I make sure I
pick this packaging. It's a little bit
money, but it would make me feel a
little less guilty’”.
Some mentioned examples of bad
environmental policy management while
others called for reputation damage on
social media,
Some mentioned examples of bad
environmental policy management while
others called for reputation damage on
social media,
“Aldi have all these signs up in the shops
about how sustainable they are in terms
of energy, but they're the worst
supermarkets in terms of packaging.
They seem to be hypocritical. They're
trying to get on the bandwagon, but
doing as little as possible” (Chloe).
“In the social media world, you have to wait
for someone to shame them, and then
they will change (…) Once somebody
makes a big deal of it, then they say, ‘okay,
we’ll change it.’ If nobody says anything,
they're not going to do anything” (Katie).
When asked about packaging logos,
consumers said that they do not use logos
when buying but were more likely to when
disposing of packaging. However, they also
state they do not recognise all of the logos or
fully understand what they mean. This
particularly applies to logos on compostable
items. One saw PET as a negative logo but was
not sure what it meant and thus was not sure
how to use it. When it comes to understanding
logos, consumers stated that recycling logos
are easy to understand but interestingly some
consumers stated they paid more attention
when they lived abroad because they were
being refunded for returning and recycling
“I looked at them more when I lived in the
States because you get money for
recycling things in the States. So I would
look on it to see how much... If it had a duty
of tax paid on it, I would think, that's five
cents, I'll put that in the thing ... I've never
understood why that isn't done here
because it meant that there are never cans
or bottles on the side of the road because
it's literally money on the side of the roads”
The main reason for not understanding logos
and rules around recycling lies in the lack of
information. Some in this group reported that
the information from local councils is not
detailed enough, which then requires online
searches to understand rules about recycling.
“You don’t have that time to start
examining all the labels, necessarily. But if
something was a few pence more
expensive and it was eco-friendly, I would
buy it. If it was significantly more
expensive, I would probably stick with the
same thing” (Lyndsey).
Some in this group also blamed big
companies for not doing enough to help
the environmental cause, but they also
recognise they tend to notice more in
some situations than others.
“…You don’t walk around the supermarket
blown away with how eco-friendly
everything is” (Vicky).
This group also mentioned that they do not
always recognize logos and understand their
meaning. In some cases, they thought that the
logo means the item is recyclable but then
later they discover it is not. Some also stated
they would prefer to have a written instruction
rather than a logo because that would be
clearer and some reported confusion with
different councils having different rules. In
addition, some consumers mentioned that
councils do not send enough information and
clarification on what that particular council is
willing to recycle.
Working class millennials mentioned the price
of eco-friendly products as well as the fact they
return home and then realize the packaging is
not recyclable, thus again emphasizing buying
first and then thinking environmentally
“If something is cheaper than something
else, a lot of people will go for that. That
determines a lot” (Geraldine)
Generation Y/ Millennials - Summary
Millennials expressed mixed feelings about online grocery shopping. Some engage with that
activity for top-up shopping and for convenience (e.g. for non-perishable items) or because
they do not have a car but the majority seemed to agree that they enjoy going to
supermarkets in person.
Millennials recognized global warming, ocean pollution and overpopulation as the most
pressing issues of today. However, they expressed a sense of powerlessness, saying they do
not know how much they can contribute. Personal actions included trying to recycle, reduce
plastic, walk more and save on utilities. As with the Generation X and Older group, some of
these consumers had changed energy providers.
However, our groups of millennials did not always follow-up the views expressed on the
environment with regard to packaging. While some mentioned ocean plastic pollution as a
pressing issue and said that they try to reduce plastic, when it came to packaging, it did not
necessarily influence their purchase behaviour. This was justified with the fact that the
packaging issue was new to them and they are still learning about it, thus going in line with
views from the older group, which expressed a need for more education about packaging
and recycling. Several millennials also said they will buy what they like regardless of the
recyclability of the product. In this group, consumers also mentioned the role of big
companies and the fact they do not do enough to help consumers reduce environmental
“This is going to sound really bad and I
don’t want it to sound bad, but my
parents do my shopping for me so that
means that I get a food delivery every
week. I would personally shop online as
well. Now that we have the service – like
you say, some places don’t have the
privilege of having it – as we have it I think
as I grow up I will use that to an
advantage. I do go to the supermarket. I
will go to Morrison’s and do odd bits
there… (Courtney).
“My family and myself don’t tend to online
shop for groceries because we live close
to a Tesco’s so we will pop in anyway. I
think for convenience in the sense of if we
know we are running out of something
then mum will go, ‘Right, I will go to the
shops,’ because it is not so far away rather
than ordering it and then waiting in.
Sometimes the waiting in and the
delivery can be a bit of a pain…” (Rebecca).
Others suggested that online shopping makes
it too easy to overspend,
Generation Z consumers in the middle class
group tended to shop online more than the
other groups, although this is often due to the
continuing influence of their parents rather
than a preference towards online shopping.
For example,
Online shopping
“A lot of the time I do my food shop at
Aldi, which doesn’t do online shopping so
I can’t. (…) It is convenient, but I feel like if I
did that I would end up spending loads of
money because I would be scrolling
through and going, I will have that and
have that, whereas in the shop there’s
certain aisles I won’t go down. I won’t go
down the snack aisle or the chocolate
aisle” (Yasmin).
All of the participants in the working class
Generation Z group said that they do not
shop online, and reasons include getting a
sense of a product, especially perishable
ones, and not seeing shopping in store as an
“I do not feel the need to do my shop
online. I am sure it would be fine if I did
do it online, but I just like going to store.
Sometimes you can walk around and
pick up things that you do not really
need, whereas I feel like if I did do it
online, I would not be as likely to do
that.” (Caitlin)
Others stated that groceries are the only
thing they would not buy online, or stated
firmly that they will always shop in store and
never shop online because they have a car
and all supermarkets are close by and thus
there is no reason to shop online.
Those in the working class Generation Z group
mentioned a variety of issues we face today but
the majority agreed that air pollution is a major
issue. For example, Jay stated that this came
from a personal experience of trying to cycle to
work where he is becoming even more aware
to what extent cars pollute the environment.
Bilal also agreed with this view and added
littering, and emphasized that this is
something he can associate with and on which
each individual can act. Other consumers
agreed with this view,
“I think mine would be littering and air
pollution. It is the two things that are
commonly talked about and we can
associate ourselves with and something that
we can possibly change. I think global
warming just seems a bit too big, a bit too
large for a common person to have an
impact on, whereas littering is something
that each individual can change and air
pollution is something that each individual
can change…” (Bilal).
However, some consumers also mention the
sense of despair because they are not sure
what they can do personally about the
problem even if they are aware of it and
concerned about it. Haikah, however, thought
that all issues are interrelated but the most
pressing one at the moment would be
species extinction because so many species
are dying out.
Personal action on
environmental issues
Relating to personal actions, some
Generation Z participants expressed strong
views about recycling saying it is hard to go
plastic free, and expressed criticism of big
supermarkets, such as Tesco, for not doing
“Imagine how much plastic is in Tesco
right now. I think it is the organisations
that should need to do something for
us to do anything. Fair enough, the
pubs aren’t serving plastic straws any
more, which is great and we are not
drinking them, we are buying our metal
straws, but there is still that big 80-90
per cent chunk of your life that you
have to have the plastic because if not,
how can you buy the item?” (Rebecca).
Participants stated they always recycle,
cycle, and do what they can but they also
feel manufacturers have a responsibility to
reduce the plastic they use in products,
“I think a lot more pressure should be
put on manufacturers about plastic as
well... but it seems like a lot of the onus
is on people to make sure that they do
their bit and they are being good to
society and recycling and things like
that. [Manufacturers] need to practice
what they preach” (Sarah).
“I think that global warming is a massive
issue, but like you pointed out, we have
been learning about it. I remember in
primary education having to do A3
posters about global warming. I believe
in it. I do think it is a thing. I am not like a
Trump that is like, ‘That doesn’t even
exist’” (Rebecca).
Participants in the middle class Generation
Z group mostly selected global warming as
the most pressing issue, linking the issue
with species extinction, which they also
linked to plastic in oceans. Some consumers
stated it is appalling that the world is not
doing enough about it, however,
interestingly this group mentions they have
learnt about the issue in schools,
Importance of
environmental issues
Those in the working class Generation Z group
mentioned a variety of issues we face today but
the majority agreed that air pollution is a major
issue. For example, Jay stated that this came
from a personal experience of trying to cycle to
work where he is becoming even more aware
to what extent cars pollute the environment.
Bilal also agreed with this view and added
littering, and emphasized that this is
something he can associate with and on which
each individual can act. Other consumers
agreed with this view,
“I think mine would be littering and air
pollution. It is the two things that are
commonly talked about and we can
associate ourselves with and something
that we can possibly change. I think
global warming just seems a bit too big, a
bit too large for a common person to
have an impact on, whereas littering is
something that each individual can
change and air pollution is something
that each individual can change…” (Bilal).
However, some consumers also mention the
sense of despair because they are not sure
what they can do personally about the
problem even if they are aware of it and
concerned about it. Haikah, however, thought
that all issues are interrelated but the most
pressing one at the moment would be
species extinction because so many species
are dying out.
Personal action on
environmental issues
Relating to personal actions, some
Generation Z participants expressed strong
views about recycling saying it is hard to go
plastic free, and expressed criticism of big
supermarkets, such as Tesco, for not doing
“Imagine how much plastic is in Tesco
right now. I think it is the organisations
that should need to do something for
us to do anything. Fair enough, the
pubs aren’t serving plastic straws any
more, which is great and we are not
drinking them, we are buying our metal
straws, but there is still that big 80-90
per cent chunk of your life that you
have to have the plastic because if not,
how can you buy the item?” (Rebecca).
Participants stated they always recycle,
cycle, and do what they can but they also
feel manufacturers have a responsibility to
reduce the plastic they use in products,
“I think a lot more pressure should be
put on manufacturers about plastic as
well... but it seems like a lot of the onus
is on people to make sure that they do
their bit and they are being good to
society and recycling and things like
that. [Manufacturers] need to practice
what they preach” (Sarah).
When asked if they consider packaging
when shopping, some of the middle class
Generation Z group said that they do try to
buy from more sustainable producers but
they also recognize this is not always easy.
In other words, some consumers felt that it
is not easy to avoid plastic because it is
everywhere. Other said that they favour
convenience because of parenting
“I use shampoo and conditioner and
body wash from a company called
Lush, who have got a big mantra about
animal cruelty and against that, but
they have started doing non-plastic
packaging (…) I did think about that
and I liked that, so I have bought that,
but then at the same time if I need
some shaving razors and they are in
the most incredible crazy packaging
because it is a razor, I am going to buy
them because I need them. That is my
other point. If I need that product and
that is the way that product is
packaged across the board, I am going
to buy it regardless of my own mantra,
which is why I felt like it falls on the
brand before the person because you
can only buy what is available”
Before I became a mum I was a right
little activist (…) Now I am all about the
convenience. I will do whatever is
closest.” (Yasmin).
“… when I am buying groceries, I do try
to buy loose products instead of those
that are pre-packaged using plastic or
seals because first of all, those products
are more fresh compared to those
packaged goods. … it is not something
that I do very frequently because I have
cheaper and more easily available
options than eco-friendly goods as well”
“I would definitely say it is to do with
the price. That would be the reason I
would not be picking the eco-friendly
option and I feel that is the only reason
for me personally as a student ... I
cannot afford to buy all eco-friendly
packaged products as opposed to
those that are available to me. I would
like to if they were less expensive.”
Some in the working class Generation Z
group noted that eco-friendly products
tend to be more expensive, which is often a
reason why they buy products that use
more plastic,
Some said they had noticed recycling
information and logos at home after they
have already purchased a product. In addition,
they recognise only recycling logos but do not
always use them,
“I would say that in store, I probably
would not actively look for symbols, but
definitely once I have finished with the
packaging, I think I look and see where
can this go? What bin do I have to put
this in? Where does it go? But yeah, not
in store” (Caitlin)
There was also a recognition of a need for
more education on how to recycle and what
can and cannot be recycled along with the
fundamental role of local councils in providing
the service and the information,
“I should probably be more educated
on what they mean because even that…
[points to one of the logos on the third
visual]… I just probably would have now
gone home and googled that because I
do not know what that means.” (Caitlin)
Generation Z - Summary
Generation Z consumers said that they do not shop online, except for those whose
parents buy groceries for them. Most of these consumers stated that they do not shop
online and the main reason mentioned is the tangible feeling of seeing and touching
the product. Global warming and air pollution were the most pressing environmental
issues cited by Generation Z, although species extinction and ocean pollution were also
important to this group. They also expressed the feeling of powerlessness and inability
to change regardless of the level of personal involvement.
Generation Z also expressed negative views of supermarkets and big business, saying they
are not doing enough to reduce plastic and help consumers be more environmental. They
did report trying to buy eco-friendly packaging but said this is not always easy since
supermarkets are full of plastic. This generation is engaged pro-environmental activities
but also said that they buy products with plastic because of the difference in price. Similar
to other groups, consumers in this group also tend to notice logos once they are at home,
and thus after they have purchased the product. Consumers in this group recognize the
need for more education about recycling and waste collection.
In addition to the six generational working-
and middle class groups, we also conducted
two focus groups with mixed generational
working and middle class women, focusing
particularly on environmental issues and
packaging. Many of their comments and
responses reflected the other groups.
Some of the mixed group saw global
warming and air pollution as umbrella issues
that cover all others. However, they also
raised the issue of ocean plastic pollution. A
sense of personal responsibility and the idea
that any individual action can make an
impact was also prominent:
Importance of
environmental issues
“I think if one person did one little thing
like I’ve just gone vegetarian and I recycle,
and if somebody just does whatever it is,
just recycling, then I think we could make
a big impact” (Nicky)
“It’s down to us, isn’t it?” (Dena)
One consumer also spoke about emotional
aspect of pollution thus revealing that some
consumers taker environmental issues to
“That ocean plastic pollution, it just breaks
your heart. And when you see a fish or a
dolphin or something that’s just choked
on plastic, it’s just… And I hate littering. I
will actually stop somebody in the street if
they drop something. And I will shame
them; rather than telling them to pick it
up, I will shame them…” (Jane)
One participant said that there is nothing she
can do about overpopulation and that it is a
general problem. Another felt disheartened
and emotional but also powerless about
ocean plastic pollution and species extinction
that comes as a result,
“I find a couple of these stand out more to
me, and it’s because it’s emotive. And it’s
ocean plastic pollution, and it’s species
extinction. And then I feel a bit ashamed
because I recognise that that provokes
more of a response in me; that’s almost
such a generic expression now. Again, I
can’t do anything about that…” (Frances)
Household and industrial waste was raised in
connection with bin collection problems and
the lack of ability to recycle everything. It was
also seen as an area where individuals can
make a difference. Consumers also revealed
that they did not know until recently what
kind of impact they can make,
However, some consumers also mentioned
global warming as a pressing issue saying
they feared for what it will be like for their
children. Overpopulation and species
extinction were also recognised as having a
general impact and affecting all other species
and environmental events,
Personal action on
environmental issues
When it came to personal actions, there was
a debate in the mixed groups centred on
supermarkets and what they could do to help
the environment, as well as personal
responsibility in not shopping in
supermarkets that do not engage with
reducing plastic, thus effectively advocating a
boycott of organisations not perceived as
environmentally conscious,
“It has to start from the individual.
Because at the end of the day, the
supermarkets put the greengrocers out of
business, the little ones. so we can’t
change them, we can’t change politics, we
can’t change anything. But what we can
do is change ourselves. So, if you’re not
happy with all the plastic in Marks and
Spencer, don’t shop there; try and shop
somewhere else” (Dena)
Consumers recognised Morrisons and Waitrose
as supermarkets trying to make an impact on
paper bags and reusable food containers
respectively. One M&S customer expressed
frustration in her chosen supermarket:
“I shop at Marks, and only because I live on
my own, so I can do that. And there is so
much plastic, they use so much plastic,
and I am so aware of all the plastic that
Marks and Spencer use. It annoys me, it
really, really annoys me” (Jane)
Other personal actions mentioned in the
mixed group include water saving at home
with water meters, which had the benefit of
financial savings, and avoiding plastic with
reusable water bottles. Other participants who
recycled and avoided plastic observed that
their bins were not getting emptied often
Some in the group then said they do not have
all bins, and suggested there is a ”postcode
lottery” and that the problem with full bins is
that it prevents consumers from using them
properly. Some also expressed concerns about
not knowing how to recycle and suggested
that as a society we need more education on
how to recycle and which bins to use,
When asked about shopping for eco-friendly
packaging, participants in the mixed
generation group stated they would buy eco-
friendly packaging and that they are more
willing to give it a try now than before,
“I think about it when I’m shopping,
because like I say, I can’t believe how much
plastic there is about. And I know
Morrison’s have started with these paper
bags, but then they’ve got all the products
in plastic. So yes, I would definitely buy
something that’s more eco-friendly” (Nicky)
“Yes, I think I would now, I’d be a bit more,
“Give it a try.” But I am noticing when I’m
chucking stuff away, probably more than
when I’m buying it in” (Francis)
Others expressed dissatisfaction with the
possibility of having to pay more for eco-
packaging and openly stated they would
frequently go for cheaper packaging,
“That will not be justified you are
paying for the packaging, so I am not
having Iceland turn around and say to
me, ‘Oh, new fact. Turn up with your
wooden crate and you can pay 5p more
for the privilege.’ I do not think so” (Jane)
Finally, one participant was critical of the
idea of paying more,
“I think if I was in a better financial
position … then I would think about it,
but it is whatever is the cheapest and it
sounds awful really” (Ruth)
Mixed Generation Groups - Summary
The mixed group of consumers saw global warming and air pollution as the most pressing
environmental issues, from which all other issues emerge. However, there was also a view that
household and industrial waste were more personally relevant issues. This led to discussion of
bin collections, the lack of recyclable bins for all waste and the idea that there is a so-called
postcode lottery where some areas are more privileged compared with others.
The personal actions of the mixed group reflected those of the other groups, including
recycling, saving on utility bills and reducing plastic. They echoed the need for education with
the view that many consumers do not know how to recycle, what is recyclable and what is not.
There was also dissatisfaction that eco-friendly packaging is more expensive, and
acknowledgement that this is the reason why they buy cheaper products even though they
would like to buy eco-friendly and reduce environmental impact.
The feeling of individual responsibility conflicted with feelings of powerlessness, especially
relating to ocean pollution. There was criticism of supermarkets not doing enough to reduce
plastic calls for avoiding shopping in supermarkets that seen as irresponsible. Although some
were willing to pay more for eco-packaging, some also admitted that even though plastic policy
in their favourite supermarket bothers them, they still shop there.
The findings present a range of views, however, differences between classes or generations
appeared to be small. Differences seemed to be more on an individual level but also related to
the availability of services. For example, some consumers debated the postcode lottery and
stated they do not get all bins to recycle effectively in contrast to areas with wealthier residents
where bins are allegedly more readily available.
What seems to run across the majority of groups is a sense that too much responsibility is being
placed on consumers. Many of our participants felt that manufacturers and especially
supermarkets are not doing enough to tackle packaging and reduce plastic. These views are
present in nearly all the groups. Interestingly, in many groups (both the middle class and
working class and in different generations), consumers recognized Bulb energy company as a
sustainable service provider changed to that service as part of their personal action on the
protection of the environment.
The sustainable policies of supermarkets – even though considerable – were not recognized,
with the exception of Morrisons, which was mentioned in several groups as an organization that
is trying to do something with introduction of paper bags and selling fresh produce unwrapped
in plastic. What is also relevant is that views on packaging are similar among all groups where
the vast majority expressed a lack of knowledge and education about recycling and the use of
bins. In this, the majority blamed local councils and stated that more knowledge is needed on
this matter.
What is particularly interesting is the similarity views on online shopping for groceries where all
groups reported a preference to physically go to the supermarket rather than shop online. This
is a particularly interesting finding for Generation Z, perceived as a digital generation and
predictions of a complete shift to online shopping. However, when we look at these eight focus
groups, there seems to be a generational consensus that supermarkets will survive without
going online so long as they provide value for money and produce that consumers want.
Meeting the packaging brief for any kind of grocery product is already complex and
demanding. Choosing materials, formats and functionality features while ensuring an
attractive design and minimising environmental impact is difficult enough without then
taking into account the actions of consumers as part of a pack’s environmental credentials.
The research reported here demonstrates that a complete environmental assessment would
include an understanding of consumer behaviour in terms of the food waste implications of
packaging design. Similarly, consumer acceptance of packaging marketed as more
environmentally friendly is an important aspect of the success or failure of that product. Prior
environmental knowledge and concern, along with experience of using such products is vital
to the uptake of such products. This has implications for marketing and the design of
packaging as the visual ecology of a product is just as important as consumer goals and
preferences. Further complexity comes from the different interpretations of corporate
responsibility claims and their congruence with overall brand image.
Retailers and marketers must consider these factors within context of differences between
countries, cultures and market segment. Generational research provides that kind of context
as it helps us to compare generational attitudes and behaviours and observe emergent
patterns brought about social and technological developments. While care in the
interpretation of generational claims is necessary, observing consumers in this way helps to
identify potential growth in demand for particular types of product.
Our review of existing knowledge about Generation Z – a cohort still to move fully into
adulthood – noted that its main distinguishing feature is actually its diversity. It is not easy to
sum up this generation in a few simple statements. This group has diverse interests and has
grown up in a time that has encouraged them to carve a separate identity. Being different is a
trend and this could lead to a growth in hyper-personalisation – the demand for products that
are just for the individual. Furthermore, their interests are likely to change often and they want
businesses to help them market themselves. This generation also seems to be more cautious
with money, shifting somewhat from possessions as a status symbol but also expecting a high
standard of experience when they do go shopping. They want brands to offer interactivity and
to be flexible in the products they offer.
The report has also noted a greater awareness and open-mindedness among Generation Z on
world issues that, along with an apparent breakdown of trust in institutions, promises more
activism and higher expectations of companies to act responsibly with regard to the
environment. The amount of environmental concern among this cohort may not be any
greater than it is for other generations but there does seem to be a passionate pro-
environmental element among them that demands more from businesses. However, it is still
unclear whether this stronger desire for environmentally friendly shopping will translate into
behaviour change. Research into millennials suggests that cost is still more important than
saving the planet and the financial constraints they live is likely to make this equally true for
Generation Z. However, should they retain that desire for a better future, their expectations of
businesses will be backed up by spending power as they become more financially
Our own recent research into consumer attitudes to environmental issues aimed to identify
differences between generations in terms of their preferences and behaviours. However, there
were few clear differences found and several recurring themes in the focus groups. The most
notable difference was the desire among Generation Z to be responsible shoppers was
constrained by affordability and the fact that they were not yet fully independent from their
parents’ shopping choices. This is a reminder that some generational differences have more to
do with current age than the effect of the time when each generation grew up.
The common themes among our consumers included a developing awareness of a range of
environmental issues and frustration and criticism of retailers and other businesses. While it was
common for our respondents to state the importance of issues such as global warming and
overpopulation to all of the other environmental problems, many also noted the emotional
responses to ocean plastic pollution and species extinction. Many reported feeling a sense of
powerlessness to respond to these global problems. However, most of our consumers said that
they engage in pro-environmental behaviours such as recycling, switching energy provider or
avoiding using the car when possible. The discussions that took place also provided a sense that
many are still learning about these issues as they shared knowledge of ways to reduce plastic or
cut carbon emissions.
However, our participants described their actions as individuals alongside their criticisms of
retailers and other big businesses for producing too much plastic and placing too much
responsibility on the consumer. They felt that they could do little to affect global warming and
plastic pollution while businesses could be doing much more. The perception that environmental
alternatives cost more may have limited their pro-environmental purchases, although they did not
feel that higher prices for such products was always justified. Finally, it is clear that consumers do
not yet have environmental issues at the forefront of their minds when standing in a supermarket
making purchase decisions. They do not look at recycling labels until they have finished using the
product and many are still learning about what is and is not recyclable.
This report has shown that consumers are an essential part of the calculation of green credentials.
Environmental consumerism is becoming a social norm and the greater awareness and concern
of younger generations will continue to push for green products to be an essential standard for
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[40] Lerro, M., Raimondo, M., Stanco, M., Nazzaro, C., Marotta, G.(2019) ‘Cause related marketing among Millennial consumers: The role of trust and
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... It enables the effective targeting of Gen Z consumers by informing marketing strategies of their distinct communication preferences and nascent consumer values (Chaney et al., 2017). Whilst Gen Z may reflect behavioural changes attributable to societal shift and progression through the consumer life cycle; their shared experience of macroenvironmental factors creates distinguishable cohort characteristics that impact their developing consumer culture (Fromm & Read, 2018;Topic & Mitchell, 2019). Understanding the complexities of this generations' nuanced consumer behaviours present a challenge (Chaney et al., 2017;Southgate, 2017;Thangavel et al., 2019). ...
... Vallone et al. (2016) warn that brand messaging alignment with this cohorts' current lifestyle aspirations and interests is critical to engage with Gen Z successfully in building brand affinity. Brand alignment with the cohort's core beliefs is more critical than fashionable designs and the drive for uniqueness (Topic & Mitchell, 2019). Research exploring the drivers of brand affinity amongst Gen Z is central to achieving brand alignment with the core values of Gen Z, which is foundational to building long term relationships. ...
... However, whilst consumer intention to switch has been confirmed in academic research, this is not substantiated by behavioural change. Research suggests that there may not be a discerning difference in the attitudes of Gen Z consumers in comparison to other cohorts; however, there is a more significant segment of this generation with strong environmental views empowered to push a climatarian agenda through consumer activism (Topic & Mitchell 2019;EY 2020;Gazzola et al., 2021). Greta Thunberg inspired a generation in leading the Global Climate Strike in support of climate change through a resurgence in youth activism, enabling Gen Z to challenge the corporate world (Dorsey & Villa, 2020;Reinikainen et al., 2020a). ...
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... While the Silent generation and Baby-boomers are the age cohorts with largest disposable income, they also are value hunters. That is, they are focused on value for their money while seeking for product quality, convenience and prefer in-store shopping (Topic & Mitchell, 2019). Gen X, on the other hand, in spite being less digitally engaged than gen Y (also known as Millennials), are amongst the first cohorts to demand more corporate sustainability (e.g., greener production processes). ...
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Increasing demand for products with eco-friendly packaging is an example of the environmental consciousness of customers. That consciousness forces companies not only to develop eco-friendly products, but also motivates practitioners and academicians to understand the eco-friendly buying behaviour of the customer. Yet in current literature, there is little discussion available where researchers talk about the influencing relationship of altruistic and egoistic values of customers on their attitudes and purchase intentions towards eco-friendly packaged products. Therefore, this work aims to build a structural model to establish the relationship between egoistic and altruistic values on customers’ attitudes and their intention to purchase products with eco-friendly packaging. With the help of a structured questionnaire, data from 227 young Indian customers was collected. An empirical investigation was carried out and the conceptual model was tested using Structural Equation Modelling (SEM). The analysis indicates that these values do influence purchase intention for products with eco-friendly packaging. However, altruistic value exerts greater influence than egoistic value. This research provides relevant findings about young consumers and their response to products with ecological packaging. These findings will assist marketers in reducing the environmental footprint caused by packaging materials, helping them to retain customers as a result. From the Asian perspective, the present research is among the early efforts towards understanding the significance of values (altruistic and egoistic) pertaining to products with ecological packaging.
Plastic pollution is a massive global issue and it is increasing. However, there are possible solutions besides the abstinence of plastic-consumption. Particularly, bioplastics could be one part of the solution. So far, there has been little research on the consumption of bioplastic-products and consumers’ choice behavior for bioplastics. We conducted the largest study so far, on preferences, choice, attitude, and perception in the context of bioplastics. Our sample of 1673 participants is representative of the German population including citizens 16 years of age and older, who were surveyed through an Online Access Panel. We conducted a logistic regression analysis combining the purchase intention for bioplastic-products as the dependent variable with 12 independent variables derived from the literature review. We found significant and comparably high influences on the purchase intention from the variables attitude towards bioplastics, green consumer values, product experience and interest in information on bioplastics. Politics and economic stakeholders promoting marketing and information activities related to bioplastic products can use the findings of this study.
The environmental benefit from sustainable packaging is not only dependent on the characteristics of the packaging, but also on consumer willingness to purchase sustainably packaged products. Consumer response is likely influenced by the specific design strategies that are used to make packaging more sustainable. Based on the circular economy concept, this paper distinguishes between circular and linear design strategies, and investigates consumer responses to packaging redesigned according to such strategies. Two experiments were conducted to assess to what extent (combinations of) sustainable design strategies affect consumers’ purchase intentions. The results show that consumers are more positive toward redesigns following a circular design strategy (e.g., biodegradable materials) compared to linear redesigns (e.g., packaging lightweighting). Additionally, consumers are not more willing to buy packaging redesigns combining multiple sustainable design strategies, relative to those using only a single redesign strategy. Multi-strategy redesigns are perceived only as marginally more sustainable than single strategy redesigns. These diminishing returns can be attributed to a lack of increase in the moral satisfaction consumers achieve from buying product with multi-rather than single-strategy redesigned sustainable packaging.