Pak 2020 Consumer Research Explores a Very Different World with COVID-19 and the Food Safety–Environment Dilemma

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Tetra Pak, a world-leading food processing and packaging solutions company, unveils findings from its global research study, in partnership with Ipsos, showing that food safety is a major issue for society. The same amount of respondents believe that COVID-19 is a “real threat.” At the same time, concern for the environment remains strikingly powerful, pointing towards a dilemma in the consumers’ minds as they try to balance the critical priorities of human existence through safe food and sustainability of the planet we live on.

The Tetra Pak Index, in its 13th edition, has seen a 10% increase in global concern about food safety and future food supplies, now at 40%, compared to 30% from 2019. In addition, more than 50% of consumers not only believe that improving food safety is the responsibility of manufacturers, they see it as the number one issue that companies need to tackle now and in the future. According to this year’s research, health is deeply connected to heightened issues of food safety and hygiene: with two-thirds of consumers saying that being healthy is being safe and 60% of consumers globally saying they worry about the food they buy being hygienic and safe.

When asked what is key for them in a package, consumers indicate that ensuring food safety is its main purpose. They also express concerns about environmental innovations in packaging impacting food safety, even though the majority of respondents indicate ‘using sustainable packaging’ as one of the top issues food and beverage brands need to tackle – today and tomorrow.

The Tetra Pak Index 2020 also highlights how food waste is rising up the agenda and this is now seen as a concern by more than three-quarters of respondents. The impact of COVID-19 on supply chains has accelerated awareness of food waste as a pressing issue. There is a likelihood that this sentiment will grow going forward, as the world strives to feed its growing population. Consumers cite food waste reduction as both the number one environmental issue they can influence themselves and one of the top three priorities for manufacturers. But confusing labelling is a barrier, offering brands a chance for better communication.

“The report shows a new landscape of consumer needs. The number one innovation which consumers are demanding today is one that can help keep food safe for longer and avoid waste, while maintaining nutritional value,” said Supanat Ratanadib, Marketing Director, Tetra Pak (Thailand) Limited. “The next in line is intelligent expiry dates – another tool to address the issue of food waste. It is interesting that despite the pandemic having disrupted the status quo, consumers continue to prefer minimal packaging with assured recyclability”.

“It is important not to sideline environmental concerns amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Khemupsorn Sirisukha, an actress and environmental activist. “It is easy to understand why our perspectives change along with the global agenda, but we have to keep in mind the long-term priorities and protecting the planet should always be on the top of our minds”.

“Tetra Pak’s research is important because it shows businesses how to effectively respond to consumer preferences,” said Asst. Prof. Dr. Sasitorn Tongchitpakdee, Department of Food Science and Technology, Faculty of Agro-Industry, Kasetsart University. “It shows that people care about more than just satisfying their basic needs, their choices are influenced by a much wider set of factors”.

The report concludes that there has never been a better time to start a wider debate about sustainability and the role of packaging going forward. Companies can demonstrate purpose by rising to this dual challenge and solving the dilemma that COVID-19 has created between food safety and environmental concerns.