The price of sustainability: How consumers trade-off conventional packaging benefits against sustainability

Giulia Granato*, Arnout R.H. Fischer, Hans C.M. van Trijp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Sustainable food packaging alternatives represent an ever-expanding trend on supermarkets' shelves. Despite the technological efforts, a higher sustainability level often comes at the expense of other (perceived) benefits which consumers might not want to sacrifice. While the balance between the benefits and drawbacks of “cleaner” packaging production is central to the designers’ perspective, it is generally overlooked in consumer research. This paper investigates how European consumers cope with product-packaging decisions, when these involve a compromise. Through an online survey with 5035 consumers in five different European countries, our results show that the sustainability appreciation can spill-over to other conventional benefits, such convenience, aesthetic quality or the perceived ability of the packaging to preserve the content. By contributing to sustainability literature and, in particular, to the understanding of the halo and spill-over effect of sustainability, this study shows that positive associations triggered by eco-design elements (e.g., a biodegradable and compostable material) absorb and filter out negative experiences, preventing consumers from perceiving certain drawbacks. This research also provides valuable practical implications to marketers and product designers, by demonstrating how different product categories, packaging types and consumer characteristics, in terms of gender, age, nationality, values and lifestyle, influence product-packaging decisions and their inherent trade-offs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132739
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2022


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  • The price of sustainability

    Granato, G., 30 Jun 2022

    Research output: Non-textual formWeb publication/siteProfessional

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