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Packaging firms must learn that the consumer is king

“Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” goes the famous Joni Mitchell song. Her message is stark: appreciate the value of what you have now. The lines were written back in 1970 but the message remains particularly apt for today.

British Glass has been urging brands and manufacturers to take this view to heart with glass packaging. But it sometimes it feels as if the message is falling on deaf ears as another product moves into plastic from glass. Fortunately, the glass market remains healthy for the time being, but we need to continue to make a positive choice for glass to keep it that way. 

Last year, British Glass decided it was time it extended beyond the traditional channels of communication. As part of our work with the European Container Glass Federation (FEVE), we undertook a Friends of Glass branded campaign that was to put us directly in front of thousands of consumers, with some striking and very encouraging results.

“Less environmentally friendly packaging is becoming the norm for favourite foods”

‘Friends of Glass’ is the consumer-oriented group created by FEVE in 2009 in response to a major pan-European survey by TNS, which found that 74% of European consumers prefer glass packaging for their food and drinks. The Friends of Glass campaign in 2010 was supported by the members of FEVE in 12 countries across Europe, including us at British Glass.

The campaign comprised three key themes: taste, health and recycling and was supported by a strong social media strategy that successfully used Twitter and Facebook to engage in online conversations about glass.

We decided in the UK to further amplify the themes through a mix of tactics such as online advertising, a celebrity-backed radio-based launch that reached over 2.5 million listeners across the country, and for the first time, taking stand space at two consumer focussed events. The events we chose represented both ends of the spectrum in terms of attendance figures, but both delivered visitors who were passionate and engaged – and very keen to learn more about how they could help keep glass on our shelves.

The first event was the inaugural Women’s Institute Real Jam Festival, which took place at the WI’s Denman College in Oxfordshire. Jam and glass jars make perfect partners and we were delighted at the enthusiastic support Friends of Glass and our campaign received. The next event, just a few days later, was the popular BBC Good Food Show. We were bowled over by the attention and enthusiasm from all those who visited our stand.

An estimated 1,200 direct conversations were had during the five days of the show, with many consumers keen to find out how they could get the message to the retailers and brands that they want to be able to continue to choose glass. They voiced their frustration too at less environmentally-friendly packaging becoming the norm for their favourite foods, sauces and drinks.

As we prepare to build on this activity during 2011 and extend our contact with consumers further, I look forward to discussing this vibrant grassroots support for glass with those entrusted with packaging decisions in the industry. If customer choice is paramount, many shoppers are clearly being short-changed when it comes to glass.

But don’t worry, I won’t be singing Joni Mitchell songs.

Rebecca Cocking is recycling manager at British Glass

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