A close look on consumer behavior in supermarkets

Author: Lena Barner-Rasmussen with reporting by Isabelle Kliger and Craig Houston

A close look on consumer behavior in supermarkets

Increasingly, more consumers say that they would gladly pay a premium for sustainable food packaging. But research point to one of the oldest traits of human behavior: we say we want to do something different, but once in the situation, we act otherwise.

How do people really behave in when shopping for food? We talked to two consumers in the UK and Spain, and this is what we found out.

Caroline Ell lives with her family in Dunfermline, Scotland. She is a keen trash sorter. “At home we have four large waste bins, one for food and garden waste, one for plastics and metal, one for cardboard and paper and one for general waste”, she says.

For Ell, sustainable food packaging is a real deal-breaker. “I always try to buy products with recyclable packaging although sometimes there isn’t a choice.”

And would she pay a premium for sustainable packaging? “Absolutely, I often do”, she says, adding that she sometimes even brings her own containers to the shop to avoid packaging altogether.

Then off to Spain where we run into 30-year-old finance business partner Fernando Claria Olmedo, who lives together with his partner in Barcelona. They do sort their trashes, although it’s a bit of a challenge in a small apartment.

“We separate plastic, glass, paper and general waste. It takes up quite a lot of space in the kitchen, but it’s worth it! Luckily, there are plenty of recycling stations in Barcelona and the city has placed recycling bins on the corner where I live, so taking the trash out is not difficult”, he explains.

He admits to not thinking too much about sustainable packaging when shopping for food.

“Honestly, this has not been a decision maker for me. However, if the quality of the product is good, sustainable packaging would be a big plus.”

Olmedo has had some bad experiences with sustainable packaging. “Some of the packaging didn’t close properly and would go bad after just a couple of days, or would leak and make a mess in the kitchen – and that’s not good enough in my opinion.”

As Olmedo is loyal to his favourite brands, switching to sustainable packaging would be a bit of a threshold.

“I want to spend the shortest possible amount of time in the supermarket, so I always turn to the same brands.”

What would be the trick to get him to switch to a new brand that uses sustainable packaging? “The packaging has to catch my eye, look nice and, more importantly, the quality versus price relationship needs to be in order. I do not want to pay extra for inferior functionality.”

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