Ranjana Sundaresan
Ranjana is Mintel’s Senior Research Analyst based in Mumbai. She specialises in analysing global consumer trends—with an Indian focus—and global trend observations.

With the aim to be plastic-free, the state government of Maharashtra and a few other states in India have banned single-use plastics. This has led to packaging converters as well as brands across the country looking for innovative and sustainable packaging options. To be ahead of the game, PepsiCo India announced its plans to launch plant-based packaging for some of its snack brands.

According to news reports, PepsiCo has announced that it plans to introduce its first ever 100% compostable plant-based packaging for its snack brands Lay’s and Kurkure. This packaging solution has been developed by the company, and India would be one of the first countries to pilot the new sustainable option.

In an effort to tackle rising plastic pollution, the company has set the goal of designing all of its packaging to be recoverable or recyclable by 2025. This endorses the Mintel Trend ‘Hungry Planet’ which highlights how today’s throwaway culture is becoming a contentious issue and consumers are looking for ways to conserve the planet’s resources.

The need for sustainable alternatives

Plastic packaging is low cost and helps companies keep prices down for consumers, but its environmental impact will make it increasingly unviable. This isn’t just a case of polythene shopping bags; it is product packaging as well that is causing problems.

The world over, there is growing interest in sustainable alternatives to plastic as consumers become more conscious of their consumption. According to Mintel research, over half of urban Indian consumers take their own bags when they go grocery shopping.

Focus on sustainability

Recyclable PET bottles for its beverages are said to account for 30% of Pepsi’s packaging volume in North America, as well as 7% globally. However, high manufacturing costs are likely to keep this from becoming common in India at this point.

In addition, changes in consumer behaviour have resulted in companies across the world looking for ways to reduce their plastic consumption by turning to alternative and sustainable materials. LEGO, for example, is launching its first pieces made from a sugarcane-based plastic; Dutch designers have created a bioplastic made from algae that can be 3D-printed into any shape; while a Thai packaging company is using a mixture of bamboo and cassava instead of plastic.

Road ahead

As ‘Hungry Planet’ highlights, changing appetites and dwindling resources are presenting a grave proposition. According to the WWF’s 2016 Living Planet Report, we will likely witness a two-thirds decline in our natural resources. This could be avoided if we implement immediate solutions that aim to save our food and energy systems as well as meet global commitments on addressing climate change, protecting and preserving biodiversity and supporting sustainable development.

Consumers do appreciate the use of green materials that help them move away from plastics, and will appreciate companies that are making the effort to do so. The higher prices of eco-friendly materials will likely be a deterrent for use of packaging, but this may also pave the way for innovation that gets rid of unnecessary and excessive packaging to keep costs and prices down.