Consumers are Driving Move to BPA-Free Packaging for Health and Safety
July 30, 2012
New research indicating that consumers are driving the market for safe, sustainable packaging, including health concerns about BPA, was released by Lisa Harrison at the Food Packaging Technologies Summit 2012 in Chicago. Harrison is the Consumer Insights and Research Leader for EcoFocus Worldwide, a major research group focused on pinpointing consumer sustainability trends and providing needed shopper insights and data for manufacturers, marketers, and retailers.
At the time Harrison spoke at the May Summit, the Food and Drug Administration had recently rejected the NRDC’s petition to ban the use of BPA in food and beverage packaging based on lack of scientific data. Harrison commented that the controversy over BPA (Bisphenol A) is an indicator of our new consumer age, where regardless of the FDA’s opinion, many companies are responding to consumers by committing to BPA-free products and packaging. More recently, the FDA responded to a petition from the American Chemistry Council (A.C.C.) and has taken action to no longer allow Bisphenol A in baby bottles and sippy cups. This comes over 4 years after key retailers (including Walmart, Whole Foods, and Toys R Us) phased out BPA-containing baby products from their stores due to consumer concerns.
Harrison says these concerns are fueling what EcoFocus calls the EcoHealthy Lifestyles™ trend, as consumers seek to avoid or reduce their exposure to chemicals for better personal health and safety. EcoFocus found that in 2012 over 60% of Americans say they have changed what they buy to reduce the amount of chemicals they are exposed to in their home. This is driving innovation in many categories, such as cleaning products, HBA products, and no VOC paints.
As a result, EcoFocus expects pressure on the government and manufacturers to increase in the future. For example, the Safe Chemicals Act currently under consideration in Congress would essentially reverse the burden of proof on chemical safety. Where now a chemical has to be proven as unsafe, the Safe Chemicals Act would require that it be proven as safe.
“Consumer watch groups are gaining louder voices as social media explodes,” Harrison observes. “They are educated faster than ever and demanding that companies change. Companies are responding to consumers rather than waiting for regulators.”
According to the 2012 EcoFocus Trend Survey, consumer concerns about chemical exposure are high and holding. A full 32% of Americans are extremely or very concerned about the health and safety of BPA. Nearly 60% are concerned about heavy metals and hormones or antibiotics in foods and over half are concerned about liquid and airborne chemicals. Concern about GMOs (50%) is up significantly since 2010.
Looking specifically at packaging, EcoFocus found that 40% of consumers claim to have already changed what they buy due to packaging. They are looking for communications that a product and its packaging promote wellness.
“Perceptions of packaging are influenced by both health and environmental considerations,” says Harrison. The three year EcoFocus Trend Survey shows that concern over plastics has increased significantly since 2010. Whether for health reasons, environmental reasons, or both, 61% of Americans say it is important to use less plastic and 42% have stopped or are using less bottled water.
Concern about the use of BPA is among the reasons for this decline in the desirability of plastic packaging for foods and beverages: nearly 70% of consumers in 2012 want to learn more about BPA, while 48% say it is extremely or very important to see BPA-free on the label—both up significantly since 2010. As a result Ziploc, Nalgene, and others are offering BPA-free plastic solutions; 28% of consumers have already purchased this type of product. Moms are particularly aware due to the issues surrounding BPA and childhood development; 38% of moms have purchased BPA-free plastic. Says Harrison, “Gerber has embraced the concerns of their buyers and is raising a new generation of moms on BPA-free products and packaging.”
Harrison stated that “BPA is a poster child for the Eco-Healthy Lifestyles trend. It’s just one landmine and others will present themselves as the EcoHealthy lifestyle trend strengthens.” Some of those landmines include preservatives, VOCs, mineral oil in recycled board packaging, GMOs, phthalates (such as DEHP), parabens, and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).
The EcoFocus study offers a new, personal, and up close look at shoppers actions and attitudes with rich insights for brand owners, manufacturers, and their suppliers. EcoFocus is currently offering four reports rich with actionable insights and data for packagers and brand marketers: Sustainable Packaging for Natural and Organic Shoppers, Sustainable Packaging for Beverage Shoppers, Are You Ready for EcoAware Moms?, and Making Way for EcoAware Dads!
EcoFocus Worldwide, LLC conducted online interviews with more than 11,000 men and women ages 18-65 years in July 2010, July 2011 and February 2012. The data is nationally projectable to the U.S. adult population and statistically valid at the 95% confidence level +/- 1.2%. The study is updated annually; the next wave will field in February 2013. For information about including custom questions in the EcoFocus Trend Survey, please contact EcoFocus Worldwide.