Americans have noticed and are concerned with growing strains on the world’s food resources, suggests new research from market intelligence agency Mintel. Eighty per cent of U.S. shoppers agree that reducing food waste and packaging waste are of equal importance, and 52% prefer food purchases with minimal to no packaging.

While U.S. consumers said sustainability is a major concern, Mintel found that only two out of five said they recycle a majority of the food packaging they use. The Mintel report also stated that 81% of Americans who look to extend shelf life would prefer to purchase foods with resealable rather than non-resealable packaging, and that more than half of consumers would pay extra for packaging with features like resealability and portion control. Thirty per cent of those asked also reported reusing packaging for other purposes.

One quarter of U.S. consumers agreed that labels contribute to the low recycling rate due to unclear communication as to which packages may be recycled. In addition, only 13% of consumers actually made an effort to avoid packages that cannot be recycled.

“Our research shows that reducing food waste is top of mind for consumers. This presents opportunities for food brands and retailers to address these concerns through innovative packaging and product messaging,” says John Owen, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. “The prevention of food waste can be positioned not only as a good way for consumers to save money, but also as a way to work toward reversing the growing food waste trend through conscious consumption.”

The research also suggests that single-serve and portion-control packaging is trending up. More than half of consumers agreed that fresh produce spoils before they have a chance to eat it, and 41% stated they would pay more for single-serve vegetable packaging. Shoppers are also more interested in the visibility of packaged products. The ability to see the contents in a package would drive 38% of consumers to purchase one product over another, according to Mintel.

“Package innovation is playing a key role as food retailers respond to an ongoing shift away from the traditional three sit-down meals a day in favor of snacking and on-the-go eating,” Mr. Owen says. “In an effort to capitalize on ever-evolving eating occasions, brands should look to package products in single-serve portions for greater portability. To further build trust and increase purchase confidence, brands and manufacturers could incorporate transparent packaging, enabling consumers to evaluate the contents with their own eyes before committing to a purchase.”

Consumers no longer consider flexible packaging a compromise due to the demand for single-serve portions, Mintel says. Thirty-four per cent of consumers associate flexibles as modern, compared to 40% who consider glass packaging to be old-fashioned, but almost half are likely to agree that glass is reusable and effectively retains freshness.

“While the need for portability is forcing some brands to forgo glass for more convenient packaging options, glass hits on the trend of package reusability, and is considered visually appealing to many consumers,” Mr. Owen says. “As such, brands that use glass packaging should market their products with a second life for its package in mind. Packaging continues to grow more important in the food marketing mix and brands should look to packaging to not only convey benefits and product information but also to shape a consumer’s experience with the product and to capture new use occasions.”