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EMAC 2023 Annual

Packed and claimed for sustainability: A multi experiment test of how consumers perceive soft drink packaging sustainability

Published: May 24, 2023


Lotte Hallez, KU Leuven/ Institute for Media Studies; Bram Spruyt, KU Leuven; Filip Boen, KU Leuven; Tim Smits, Institute for Media Studies, KU Leuven


Consumers have a growing preference for packaging that is eco-friendly, but have difficulties assessing the sustainability of packaging. They rely on cues, which can either hinder or facilitate their recognition of sustainable packaging. We conducted three online experiments to investigate how two packaging cues (i.e., packaging material, sustainability claims) shape sustainability perceptions, product expectations and choices. Across our studies, we focused on the four materials used for beverage packaging (i.e., glass, plastic, carton, metal) and claims about the sustainability of the material (e.g., ‘100% recycled’). Our findings showed that packaging material is a significant driver of product expectations and choices, but that misconceptions exist about the sustainability of some materials. However, sustainability claims succeed at making materials seem more sustainable, and are most effective for materials that are typically believed to be unsustainable (e.g., plastic).