Are global attitudes affecting sustainability in the food packaging sector?

The future of sustainability in the food and drink sector is making headway now that a growing number of companies per sector per country are abiding by ethical standards, both in the way their food and its packaging is produced. In fact, it can be argued that some corporations are proactive in going the extra mile to be perceived as sustainable to distance themselves from bad quality and design.  In this article we look at the global attitudes of people towards the sustainable food and drink sector and ask if it reflects the movements carried forward by companies worldwide.

Sustainable food packaging

Nowadays its commonplace to expect not only ingredients are sustainable, but also the packaging material of food items. This notion has an immediate knock-on effect on consumers who are asked to question their own choices, throughout the purchasing process even through to the supermarket check-out. The prime example being the reinforcement of paying for plastic bags at checkouts in supermarkets, whereas up until recently, shoppers were encouraged to use plastic bags freely with no broader consequences. Food suppliers have gone through this change some time ago by opting to produce more items made from recyclable material where possible – from sandwich casing to coffee cups – and this now goes as far as some manufacturers using corn and sugarcane for their product range.

Recycled Materials

According to a Datamonitor survey, more consumers worldwide would prefer products to be recyclable than have reduced packaging, however, the number of individuals that say they often, or always, recycle household waste is inconsistent among countries and very low in some. Large corporations are never far behind the recycling trend, namely Coca-Cola, which has been known to incentivise consumers to recycle with vouchers. But does the message get through to the public and should food packaging suppliers and manufacturers work harder to lean on greener standards?

Is it important to buy ethical or socially responsible products?

Looking closely at recent surveys on attitudes towards sustainability in the food and drink sector from Datamonitor in 2010, we can identify those countries which are early adopters and subscribers to the view that it’s important to care about how food and drink is produced. From the table below, it’s clear that the rising economic powerhouses, such as China, Brazil and India all carry a high percentage of people who agree that buying ethical or socially responsible products in the right path to follow. European countries, such as the UK, Germany and Sweden are surprisingly conservative with less than half their population agreeing to this standpoint.

It is important to buy ethical or socially responsible products
Country Number of people who agree (%)
Australia 57
China 83
India 80
Japan 51
South Korea 74
France 61
Germany 41
Italy 58
Netherlands 35
Russia 49
Spain 62
Sweden 41
UK 44
USA 50
Brazil 86


Is it important to alter purchasing habits towards ethical or socially responsible products?

Of course, opinions can be said to be overlooked in favour of actions, however when questioned as to whether people worldwide truly have altered their buying habits to become more eco-friendly the trends still align with the data in the table above. India, China and Brazil all show a high percentage of people who have actively made a decision to buy more sustainable products, and again the European countries fall way behind, notably the number of people in Netherlands agreeing to this view being a mere  16%.

I have altered my buying habits in favour of sustainable products
Country Number of people who agree (%)
Australia 44
China 69
India 75
Japan 27
South Korea 55
France 45
Germany 27
Italy 39
Netherlands 16
Russia 39
Spain 47
Sweden 27
UK 35
USA 36
Brazil 65


There’s no questioning that more input is needed from both food suppliers and consumers if we are to see a radical change in the way food is produced on a mass scale, and in years to come we should hope that the percentages of people worldwide who have welcomed the eco-friendly guidelines as standard practise.

This is a guest blog post from the team at Sovereign (, a leading UK food packaging supplier. For more information on how to go green with food and drink packaging, visit the Sovereign website (