Savvy marketers have known for years that packaging can play an important role in communicating a product’s proposition and influencing purchasing decisions. As consumers demand high-quality and healthy products, they also are becoming increasingly interested in the environmental impact of the product’s packaging.

A study released by the Carton Council of North America earlier this year revealed that 77 percent of consumers surveyed said that they consider the effect of their purchase on the environment. And 91 percent of consumers said that they expect food and beverage brands to actively help increase the recycling of their packages.

Today’s conscientious consumers are seeking products that are environmentally responsible. Companies are responding with more eco-conscious packaging and production processes. One recent trend that exemplifies this is water packaged in cartons.

Working with the Carton Council, an industry organization formed with the goal to increase the recycling of carton packaging in the United States, allows us to work with many stakeholders across the recycling value chain and with a network of brand ambassadors that help spread the word that cartons are recyclable. Four of our brand partners — Boxed Water Is Better, Flow Water, JUST water and RETHINK Water — market water in carton packaging. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with them to learn more about this growing trend.

“Our decision to use a carton package for RETHINK Water was an easy one. Recyclable and consumer-friendly, cartons represent the potential to replace all unrenewable materials with renewable materials,” says Matt Swanson, founder and chief executive officer of RETHINK Water.

All of these fairly new companies identified the need among consumers for a new portable packaging option that keeps drinking water safe and offers a responsible environmental profile.

“We believe that we are all connected and that every action taken, including purchasing a water product, should have a positive effect on the world around us,” says Nicholas Reichenbach, founder and chief executive officer of Flow Water. BI

Early on, each company researched various packaging options and selected cartons based on their positive environmental attributes, as well as their convenience and innovative look and feel.

“JUST is pleased to be part of a growing movement toward sustainable packaging,” says Grace Jeon, chief executive officer of JUST. “We’re encouraged to see the increase in carton packaging within the industry. Every small change counts, and together, we can change the way companies deliver packaged goods. We started JUST with the belief that everyday products should evolve in ways that will continually reduce their impact on the environment, while creating a positive impact in communities where we operate.”

For all of these companies, the environment is considered every step along the way, from sourcing to consumption, including the following items:

The water itself: While the sources are different for each company, they all share the mantra of ensuring the water is responsibly sourced and, above all, great-tasting.

The packaging: Cartons mainly are made of renewable materials, primarily paperboard with wood fiber sourced from responsibly managed forests. They are recyclable, and efforts to make them easily recycled in the United States have achieved tremendous progress during the past few years. As of August,
58 percent of U.S. households can recycle their cartons through their local recycling programs. Once recycled, the fiber is used to make paper towels, tissues, and office and writing paper. Additionally, the entire carton can be used to produce green building materials.

Marketing to consumers: Using FSC-certified paper for promotional materials and upcycled wood for product displays are a few other ways these companies strive to be environmentally conscious every day.

Telling the sustainability story

The uniqueness of water packaged in cartons begs consumers to pick it up and read about it, providing an opportunity for storytelling about the brand’s sustainability efforts. All of our brand ambassadors recognize the importance of using the packaging to promote its environmental benefits, devoting precious on-pack space for environmental messaging.

“We chose cartons as a sustainable and environmentally responsible way to deliver our product. From the beginning, we have been very deliberate about promoting a better way to consume portable packaged water in a fun, unique and thoughtful way. Our carton has been a tremendous vehicle for us to deliver that message,” says David Lee, chief executive officer of Boxed Water Is Better.

The package itself is the first place consumers go to look for information about recyclability. According to the previously mentioned research, 57 percent of consumers look to a product’s packaging first for recycling information before turning to other sources.

With sustainability being central to their product positioning, promoting their environmental story goes beyond on-pack messages for these companies. Each talks about sustainability in a comprehensive, compelling and consistent way.

It is clear that water packaged in cartons is new and currently represents a small market share. However, it also is clear that in this new trend, the packaging represents a symbol of conscientious consumerism. BI