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  • Writer's pictureJulie de Vaan

Dealing with the SUP Directive

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

With the expansion of the Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive on July 1, 2023, businesses in the food industry face new challenges in packaging. They are no longer allowed to provide free disposable plastic packaging. The aim of this measure is to reduce disposable plastic and promote reuse. But how should companies navigate this directive?


In practice, producers, suppliers, or sellers of food packaging intended for single use must calculate an additional cost to the consumer. This amount should be clearly indicated on the receipt. Additionally, they are required to offer and/or accept reusable alternatives if consumers bring them.


Companies that want to prepare effectively for this directive and future measures should also take consumer behavior into account. In this article, we will address 3 important aspects of the SUP directive in relation to consumer behavior and provide tips for businesses to handle them effectively.


1: The influence of the price incentive of the SUP Directive

Products in reusable packaging become more financially attractive, especially when consumers are aware of the price difference at the time of purchase. Therefore, companies offering reusable packaging should make consumers aware of this price difference before the decision-making moment. Companies facing significant competition from businesses offering products in reusable packaging should also consider providing this option.


When making a purchase, consumers often make quick mental assessments, such as "Which option is most suitable for me at this moment?" Price is usually a factor considered in this decision.


As the prices of disposable plastics increase, alternatives in reusable packaging will become more appealing to consumers. This is especially true when companies offering products in reusable packaging effectively communicate the (financial) benefits of reuse to consumers at the time of purchase. It is advisable for these companies to communicate this information more prominently, even before printing the receipt.


When consumers have a clear choice at the time of purchase and reasonable alternatives in reusable packaging are available, they are more likely to choose products in reusable packaging. Therefore, businesses, particularly those facing significant competition from products in reusable packaging on the shelves, should offer reusable alternatives or transition to reusable packaging.


2: More consumer responsibility and resistance

The new directive places a significant burden of responsibility on consumers. To avoid resistance and a decline in sales, companies in the food industry must also take their responsibility.


Responsibility has always been a crucial point of discussion in sustainability issues. For instance, who is responsible for waste reduction—companies or consumers? Research shows that striking a good balance is essential. Consumers are often only willing to take responsibility if companies demonstrate sufficient commitment.


With the new directive, where packaging costs are passed on to the consumer, the burden of responsibility shifts excessively onto consumers. This can lead to resistance and a decrease in purchases.


To prevent this, companies must take responsibility themselves, for example, by offering reusable options. It is also important to clearly indicate who is responsible for what. Therefore, communicate effectively about your company's efforts to make packaging more sustainable and reduce it, while clearly outlining your expectations of consumers.


3: Activation and reminders for behavioral change and reuse

To promote reuse, it is crucial to activate consumers. Collaborations among companies in the food industry can facilitate reuse and remind consumers about it. This is particularly relevant for impulse purchases and non-essential items.


Reusable packaging requires additional action, effort, and motivation from consumers. Consumers must remember to bring their own packaging at the time of purchase and retain it for reuse after consumption. Activation, therefore, plays a vital role in influencing consumer decision-making and promoting reuse. It is essential to consistently remind consumers throughout the entire process to bring and use reusable packaging.

This is especially important for producers of products considered extras or impulse purchases. Consumers are more likely to refrain from buying such items if they do not have the appropriate packaging with them.


Pooling resources and establishing collaborations within the industry are recommended to effectively address this issue. A well-designed system of reusable packaging suitable for multiple products can make reuse easier for consumers. Additionally, large-scale joint campaigns and activations can effectively reach consumers, remind consumers, and raise consumer awareness.


In summary:

With the expansion of the Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive on July 1, 2023, businesses in the food industry face new challenges in packaging. To successfully navigate these changes, it is essential to consider consumer behavior. By creating awareness about the financial benefits of reuse, taking responsibility as a company, and collaborating within the industry, businesses can activate and encourage consumers to choose reusable packaging. This is necessary to be well-prepared for the future and the transition to sustainable packaging.


If you would like to learn more about this or other sustainable transitions and consumer behavior, please feel free to contact us for more information.


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