People want to feel a connection with the brands and products they support. Consumers have become increasingly interested in sustainability and social values, and Millennials and Generation Z in particular have strong preferences to buy from sustainable brands.
As a health & wellness product business, you can connect with your customers and demonstrate your values by using sustainable packaging.
Before we dive into the details, take a moment to think about the brand attributes of your business. Does sustainable packaging make sense with your brand’s personality and purpose?
If you’re not sure, we made this free workbook to help you identify the personality traits of your business and clarify your brand. You can get your free copy here:
Below is our breakdown of what sustainable packaging is and how to figure out if it’s right for your health & wellness business.
What does sustainable packaging mean?
Sustainability is defined as the ability for a generation to meet its needs without compromising the needs of future generations. The primary goal of sustainability efforts is to reduce waste.
Typical single-use plastic packaging (like a candy wrapper) has a negative environmental impact for two reasons:
- Plastic is a petroleum product which takes a high amount of energy and water to manufacture, and
- Plastic doesn’t break down in landfills. It can occasionally be recycled depending on the product, but even then, recycling rates are extremely low.
Think of a bag of chips that someone opens, eats as a snack, and throws in the garbage when they’re done. It took a lot of resources to make that bag, it was shipped around the country, it was used once, it isn’t recyclable, and now it will sit in a landfill for hundreds of years or find its way into ocean and wildlife habitats.
Product-based businesses have an opportunity to change this cycle, which is where sustainable packaging comes in.
Some packaging materials are considered sustainable because they use less resources when they are first created. Many cosmetic companies use “post-consumer plastic” in their containers. That means a percentage of their plastic was already used once (like as a plastic water bottle), recycled, and now that same plastic is being used again in their products.
Other materials are considered sustainable because they result in less waste at the end of their life cycle. For example, if your business mails a lot of products you could utilize biodegradable packing peanuts as an alternative to traditional foam shipping peanuts.
If you’re curious about more ways to connect with your target beyond sustainable packaging, you can take our quick brand personality quiz here:
What are the benefits of sustainable packaging?
From a branding perspective, using sustainable packaging can help you stand out and create a positive brand impression with your target customers.
When people attach to a brand, they desire to be part of that brand’s mission and purpose. They want to be able to say “this brand represents what I stand for.” The health & wellness industry has a large amount of clients who care about the environment, especially if your product is more natural or holistic.
Think about your one ideal customer. Do they care what your packaging is made of? Would they put down your face mask if they saw it was wrapped in single-use plastics and choose your competitor’s instead? Or would they even notice?
The answer to those questions will determine the next right steps for your brand.
Aether Beauty has positioned its cosmetics brand as a leader in sustainable packaging. Their company removed mirrors and magnets from their makeup palettes after learning those materials are not recyclable. Aether Beauty sources its packaging from recycled materials and making sure their products are 100% recyclable at the end of their life cycle.
For example, this innovative Aether Beauty eyeshadow palette is made of paper. It is highly attractive and functional, it has won eco-beauty awards, and it sets the brand apart as one that genuinely cares about sustainability:
On the environmental side, the benefits of sustainable packaging include less waste produced, less greenhouse gases emitted, less litter, less garbage, less air pollution, and a cleaner world. The Story of Stuff is an amazing video that dives further into this topic.
What are some sustainable packaging examples?
There are many variations of sustainable packaging that health & wellness businesses can choose from. Here are the most common examples:
– Reusable packaging
The best way to reduce waste is to create less of it in the first place. Brands are increasingly thinking about how to reuse their products and go “zero waste.”
For example, Plaine Products has a reuse program for their hair and body product bottles. Customers order product refills when their shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles are empty, and they receive a return label with their refill so they can send back their old bottles. Those returned bottles are sanitized and reused for future customers.
Plaine Products also uses aluminum bottles rather than plastic. Aluminum is much more durable than plastic, and aluminum bottles can withstand a high number of reuses before ultimately being recycled.
– Recyclable packaging
Recyclable packaging is the easiest sustainable packaging option for the majority of health & wellness businesses.
Aluminum cans of cat food have always been recyclable even before sustainable packaging was a hot topic — simply because aluminum is recyclable. If your business already uses recyclable plastic bottles, you could increase the amount of post-consumer recycled plastic used in your bottles to make an even bigger impact.
While cardboard packaging and plastic bottles are already recyclable, it’s tricky to create recyclable versions of wrappers and snack packaging. Nestle recently introduced the first recyclable paper snack packaging in the industry, and we expect to see more sustainable innovations like this in the future.
– Plant-based or compostable packaging
Some packaging materials look like plastic, but they are really made from plant-based alternatives such as corn fibers. These materials are typically advertised as compostable, but note that compostable packaging comes with its own set of challenges.
Most compostable cups and wrappers don’t break down in backyard composts or landfills — they require an industrial composting facility, which most consumers don’t have access to.
That being said, there have been recent positive improvements in this sector. If you’re interested in using compostable packaging, be sure to ask your supplier questions about how exactly the materials break down first.
If you want to test your branding knowledge and take the next steps to grow your business, you can take our quiz here to discover your brand score and next steps:
Is sustainable packaging right for your brand?
There are four things to consider when determining if sustainable packaging is right for your brand:
1. Your target
If your ideal customers are interested in sustainability, it makes sense to incorporate sustainability into your brand — either in your packaging or in your product materials and ingredients. If you’re looking for a newsworthy PR moment, you could make a big announcement about your sustainable packaging improvements to create positive buzz about your brand.
2. Your mission
Plenty of brands were using sustainable packaging before it was popular because they cared about the environment and felt it was the right thing to do. If your brand is focused on wellness and making the world a healthier place, sustainable options could align with that mission.
3. Your competitors
If your immediate competitors are already using sustainable packaging, and your business is not, that can signal to customers that your brand doesn’t care. Look at how your competitors have incorporated sustainability into their packaging and practices.
4. Your costs
Sustainable packaging has come down in cost significantly over the past few years, and in many cases it is the same price or cheaper as “unsustainable” packaging. However, this varies widely depending on your product type, so cost remains a factor to investigate and consider.
Promoting your sustainable packaging
If your health & wellness brand chooses to use sustainable packaging, you can use that as marketing point on your labels, website, and the occasional social media post.
Potential customers will likely find it interesting and inspiring that your business went the extra mile to invest in sustainable alternatives to traditional packaging materials.
Here are a few content ideas you can use to promote your sustainable packaging:
- Include a page on your website that outlines your business’s sustainability initiatives. Seventh Generation has an entire page on its website explaining its sustainable product packaging and future waste reduction goals.
- Write a blog post on why sustainability is important to your brand. This can go beyond your packaging and discuss any efforts to source from sustainable suppliers, use natural ingredients, or offset energy and water waste in other ways
- Feature examples of customers reusing or repurposing your products
An additional option to consider is having your products labeled by a third-party green certification. Potential options are Rainforest Alliance Certified, Cradle to Cradle Certified, Forest Stewardship Council Certified, and Green America Certified Business although there are a variety of additional organizations depending on your business’s products and practices.
At Aventive Studio, we help health & wellness businesses create powerful brand identities that attract their ideal customers and increase their sales. If you’re interested in demonstrating to your audience that your brand cares about sustainability, we can help you accomplish that!
Our branding agency can help startups and established businesses with everything from brand strategy and planning to website design, packaging design, advertising, marketing, SEO, and more. You can find our full suite of services here.
Ready to create an unforgettable brand? Contact us here to chat with our creative director about how we can help your health & wellness business.