How Beverage Producers Can Communicate Their Sustainability Efforts to Customers

Brewing a Better Tomorrow: Communicating Beverage Sustainability Initiatives

It’s no secret why beverage companies around the globe are investing in sustainability and communicating their efforts to their customers: in addition to decreasing pollution, natural resource consumption and other negatives that harm us all, sustainability makes good business sense.

Breweries and beverage companies that adopt sustainable practices stand out among the competition, keep and attract eco-conscious consumers and may be able to charge more for sustainable products.

Thanks to a surge in inflated and misleading “eco-friendly” claims, however, customers have grown increasingly skeptical of sustainable messaging. As a result, it’s more important than ever to communicate your business’s sustainability efforts by understanding your customers’ concerns, creating effective and realistic goals and sharing the story of your efforts honestly.

Overview of Sustainability in Canned Beverage Packaging

In the canned beverage industry, sustainability is highly focused on packaging because aluminum cans are already highly recyclable. To improve sustainability in packaging, companies often focus on making their packaging either less harmful when thrown away or more recyclable.

Common multipack options include:

  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE) “rigid” can carriers

  • Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) “flexible” can carriers

  • Alternative options made from paper, plant fiber, etc.

While paper- or fiber-based products may seem like the more sustainable can handle option, this isn’t always the case when looking at the entire recycling infrastructure.

Beverage Producer Sustainability Communication Challenges

According to The Nature Conservatory, consumers reported a willingness to pay up to 36% more for sustainable products. That said, breweries and other beverage companies face an uphill battle when it comes to communicating sustainability efforts.

For one, sustainability expectations have risen over the years. In addition, thanks to practices like greenwashing where companies may have misled consumers into thinking their products and policies are more environmentally friendly than they are, the public has become understandably skeptical of sustainability claims.

There is also widespread misinformation and perceptions about what sustainability looks like in the beverage industry. For example, plastic beverage carriers can be one of the most sustainable options based on recyclability of plastics used, but many consumers mistakenly think anything paper- or plant-based is better. The reality is that paper- and plant-based products are generally more energy intensive to produce and more costly to recycle since they’re usually coated with plastic for durability. But keep reading … more on this below!

How to Communicate Your Sustainability Efforts to Buyers

It’s not enough to make more sustainable choices; to reap the rewards of a better brand reputation and increased consumer spending, your business must effectively communicate its efforts to customers.

Lower consumer trust and misinformation about truly sustainable practices make this challenging but very possible.

Start With Messaging

Effective sustainability communication must start with a careful look at what you want to say and how best to deliver that message.

To craft a powerful message, you must:

  • Understand your target audience: Get clear on the values and preferences of your target audience. How environmentally conscious are they? What are their greatest sustainability concerns about the beverage industry? Environmentalism? Cost? Health? Taste?

  • Craft a powerful message: Once you know your audience’s wants, you need to craft a compelling and authentic message that resonates with them. Make sure you hit on at least one top concern. Make it focused and specific. For example, your message might revolve around your 100% recyclable packaging and your efforts to reuse your multipacks. Or, if you’ve looked into or even started adopting the next generation of plastics like we have with our 100% biodegradability certification, let customers know your rationale and how they should dispose of the product.

  • Be transparent: The key to overcoming consumer mistrust in your sustainability efforts is transparency. Make sure any message you share is clear, confirmable and accurate. If your sustainability efforts aren’t where you want them to be just yet, share your goals and how they’re progressing. Customers don’t expect perfection, but they do expect honesty and progress.

  • Educate: Given the misconceptions of the recycling infrastructure, your efforts to educate your consumers on the materials you use and the best way to dispose of them is essential to actually being sustainable.

  • Showcase real stories: People are wired to enjoy stories. By sharing your company’s sustainability journey and the real actions you’re taking, your message can stand out and resonate more strongly with customers. It’s also key that you share why the actions you’re taking matter and how your efforts are unique.

Utilize Various Marketing Channels

Customer interest in sustainability varies. Most people have a casual desire to make better purchasing decisions that can be satisfied with a sentence or badge communicating what makes your product more sustainable. However, some customers will want more information to make sure your efforts meet their requirements and that you can back up your claims.

You need to use a variety of marketing channels to reach, win over and keep both types of customers and to make sure your sustainability message is heard. Marketing channels include:

  • Social media platforms

  • Your website

  • Emails

  • Point-of-sale signage

  • Packaging

Additionally, using visual cues like eco-friendly symbols to highlight sustainability practices and initiatives can serve as a powerful visual tool. Videos, graphics and images can increase audience interest and communicate complex ideas more quickly and more effectively.

Lean on Your Employees

Employees should be a core part of your sustainability messaging strategy. Make sure the people working at your business — especially customer-facing employees — are informed, inspired and involved in your efforts.

If you operate a brick-and-mortar business, you can share your sustainability efforts when customers purchase your products. Employees can also inform customers if you’re raising money for a sustainable cause, have a recycling drop-off center or offer incentives for sustainable choices.

Encourage Customer Interaction

Businesses able to get customers involved in their sustainability efforts enjoy many benefits, from increased customer loyalty to gaining invaluable feedback on how to improve.

Encourage customer interaction by:

  • Asking for customer feedback: Through social media post engagement, surveys, interviews with customer-facing employees, and other listening methods, you can gain feedback on what your audience wants, the issues they care about most and their communication preferences.

  • Encouraging involvement in sustainability initiatives: Customer involvement can include asking for a donation to an eco-friendly organization at the point of sale, holding a local fundraiser for an environmental nonprofit or setting up a drop-off bin for recyclable or reusable packaging.

  • Developing eco-conscious loyalty programs or incentives: You can offer discounts or points toward free offers for customers who recycle packaging or cans at a partnering drop-off center. You can do the same for customers who complete surveys, donate or participate in other eco-conscious behaviors.

  • Providing educational resources: Make sure your customers are informed by providing information on sustainability, material disposal and brewing/production practices.

Show Your Can Carriers in Action

One specific, direct way to show your customers you’re taking action on sustainability is by communicating the impact of having a completely recyclable or biodegradable can carrier.

Keep a sample of your can carrier near the register as a point of conversation. If you use our recyclable* Craft-Pak® rigid HDPE can carriers, let customers know how and where to recycle them within your community and show how easily the cans come out of the carrier! And if you use our Grip-Pak®flexible LDPE rings, inform customers that they’re 100% biodegradable** and can be tossed in the garbage with peace of mind.

Communicating Sustainability Efforts: A Key Piece of the Multipacking Puzzle

Today’s leading beverage companies showcase their sustainability efforts to build brand loyalty and drive growth. And with customers willing to pay more for truly sustainable alternatives, these efforts don’t have to cut into profits.

paper vs plastic
Not sure whether paper or plastic packaging is right for your business? Let us help you choose.

*While Roberts PolyPro LDPE and HDPE materials are 100% recyclable, items accepted can vary based on your location. Please check with your local recycling office to see what is accepted in your area.

**Following a rigorous 28-week scientific test, an independent agency demonstrated that our Grip-Pak can rings completely biodegraded, without any false-positives or false-negatives