Apparently “don’t judge a book by its cover” doesn’t apply to supermarkets. A new study found that consumers were deceived by environmentally friendly packaging and were willing to spend more on the supposedly higher-quality goods that it contained.
The study had people look at everyday foods with and without sustainable-looking packaging. Consumers believed that higher-quality packaging contained higher-quality food — regardless of whether the food itself was actually healthy.
This study could lead to an interesting shift in how the food industry handles sustainability. Recently, one food startup made a meatless burger whose goal is to replace regular burgers not by virtue of its meatlessness, but because it tastes better than the traditional burger.
The same machinations may be at work here: The most notable finding in this study is that sustainable packaging is worth the extra cost for food companies. According to the study, food companies should pay for sustainable packaging not because it’s better for the environment, but because consumers are inclined to pay a higher price for the goods. This is a huge win for the sustainability movement; the food industry will, in theory, decrease its environmental footprint in exchange for the higher earnings.