Leading marketers such as Warner-Lambert Co. and Hewlett-Packard Co. continue to refine packaging with the goal of reducing pollution, easing stressed landfills and building market share.
Environmental Research Associates, which has tracked public opinion on green issues since 1990, reports consumers still desire environmentally friendly packaging. Although they no longer cite it as their top green concern, "Environmentally sensitive packaging is still very important to consumers," said Lois Kaufman, VP with the Princeton, N.J.-based research company.
Consumer goods giant Warner-Lambert has quietly continued to reduce packaging and has switched to recycled materials for several packages.
Last year, the company switched Listerine to a plastic bottle from glass with a paper overwrap. The change reduced the product's packaging materials 52% by weight and saved 20 million pounds of packaging per year.
Promotionally, Warner-Lambert's new thrust is to explain the packaging's green advantages to consumers directly on the carton or label. Now that most states have yielded to federal guidelines on use of environmental terms like "recyclable" and "recycled" for labeling, "We feel as though we can put things on the package to educate consumers without running afoul of any particular state legislation," said Jim Lime, VP-environmental affairs and compliance with Warner-Lambert.
"Our Efferdent package is 100% recycled paperboard, but that's not communicated to the consumer. Now we're looking at changing that," he added. A green explanation on the label of Warner-Lambert's Personal Touch razor package could follow; the packaging is made from 100% recycled soft-drink bottles.
Regarding the marketing effect of putting explanatory flags on packages, Mr. Lime said, "I think this will help boost market share. If we put a little statement on our Efferdent carton that says this carton is made from 100% recycled paper-of which 67% is post-consumer-and then tell them post-consumer means it has served its intended end use, it has been diverted from landfills and incinerators for recycling .*.*. I think [consumers] will buy the product, as long as it's not too terribly much more to pay."
At Hewlett-Packard, "One of the requirements to design new [printer] packaging was that it be ecological to produce and ecological to dispose of," said Peter Van Naarden, marketing services manager in Santa Clara, Calif.
The new packaging, still being rolled out, consists of bleached cartons made of totally chlorine free material and replaces other environment-friendly cartons HP had used since 1991.