Consumers play an important role in the market penetration of environmentally-friendly food packaging because it is they who decide whether or not to buy a particular product. The objective of this paper is to analyse the state of the art regarding consumers' response to environmentally-friendly food packaging in order to identify existing barriers to purchase and potential measures to overcome these barriers. The paper is based on a systematic synthesis of 46 scientific journal articles on consumer studies related to environmentally-friendly packaging. The literature review applies a conceptual framework regarding the ways consumers respond to product stimuli and the psychological processes involved. Three important barriers to purchasing environmentally-friendly packaging are identified. First, consumers need guidance in recognizing environmentally-friendly packaging; for while consumers primarily consider the packaging material itself and any eco-labels, they also consider other packaging design elements such as colours and pictures of 'nature' that can be misleading. Second, it became obvious that consumers lack knowledge, in particular about new packaging materials like bio-based packaging. Third, many of the studies reviewed provide evidence that other product attributes such as price and product quality are more important to consumers than environmentally-friendly packaging. Nevertheless, some studies recorded a significantly higher willingness on the part of consumers to buy and pay for environmentally-friendly packaging and products with reduced packaging compared to products with standard packaging, signalling an overall positive attitude. The literature review revealed many research gaps. For example, it became obvious that consumers' response to environmentally-friendly food packaging is not yet well understood, in particular with regards to purchasing behavior (in the real world as opposed to in a survey setting) and measures for overcoming existing barriers.
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