Last week’s Organic Fresh Produce Forum, run by Soil Association Certification, has highlighted increasing consumer concern about the eco credentials of organic product packaging.

Online research carried out on over 1,000 shoppers revealed the rising interest in ‘less and better’ packaging for fresh organic produce as consumers seek greater sustainability and integrity.

The retailers, producers and packers attending the forum heard that 56% of shoppers are concerned about the impact of food packaging on the environment, 55% expect organic fresh produce packaging to have a low or no impact, and 42% expect organic products to be in more environmentally friendly packaging than their non-organic counterparts. Loose is the preferred packaging choice for organic fresh produce (27%), followed by cardboard and paper (22%).

The data showed that the biggest cause of concern is non-recyclable packaging (48%), followed by excess packaging (42%) and plastic packaging (37%). Non-recycled plastic is the least preferred option, with 50% saying they won’t buy a product packed in non-recycled plastic, compared to 11% who are put off by recyclable plastic.

The majority of respondents indicated they weren’t well enough informed about the environmental impacts of packaging and would like more information on recycling, whereas regular organic customers were more aware of the impacts of different packaging and had greater expectations for organic fresh produce packaging to be environmentally friendly.

“The evidence is clear that there is a significant opportunity for organic fresh produce businesses to evolve and to seize a competitive advantage by meeting the environmental needs of customers and providing helpful information about the sustainability, recyclability and eco-credentials of their packaging,” said Soil Association senior business development manager Sophie Kirk.

“Shoppers are becoming increasingly more knowledgeable about their purchasing decisions, and this is even more important for organic customers who on the whole demand the brands they buy from meet the highest standards.

“The adage remains ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’, but in 2021 it is vital that businesses can demonstrate their sustainability and have thought ahead considering new legislation and future recycling advances and infrastructure.”