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MSU packaging school study shows packages affect purchases

July 10, 2012

A recent study from the MSU School of Packaging shows that consumers are more likely to purchase packages that have a long shelf life, are easy to open and are made from bio-based products.

Georgios Koutsimanis, a doctoral student and graduate assistant, said the report asked people around the country what type of packages they would be inclined to purchase.

“We couldn’t find anything like it,” Koutsimanis said. “We wanted to develop a new way to package fruits and vegetables.”

Koutsimanis said all the research was done online with survey software.

“We launched an online survey in July 2010, and about 300 males and females from around the country took part,” he said.

Koutsimanis said the survey had three different sections including demographics about the people answering the questions, general questions about the types of packaging they buy and simulations of 16 different types of packages focusing on the packaging of sweet cherries.

Eva Almenar, assistant professor in the School of Packaging, helped with the study and said this is just the first step in making a new type of package.

“There are many things you need to know before designing a package,” Almenar said.

Almenar, who has been in the packaging business for 12 years, said the study was important to MSU because of the different departments that the results could affect.

Almenar said that not only the packaging school is interested in the results, but with the focus MSU has on agriculture, other departments like to look at the quality of the product in the package.

The results from the study will be published in a future issue of the scientific journal Appetite.

“The most important attributes that affect the purchasing decisions of consumers regarding a
specific fresh produce like sweet cherries are price, shelf life and container size,” the study said.

Highlights from the study are clear about what type of packages consumers are interested in, but it concedes that more information needs to be gathered.

“Consumers prefer large and rigid containers made from bio-based plastics,” the report said. “Consumers favor low prices and extended shelf life periods for fresh produces.”

Given the choice, economics sophomore Jackson Wagner would pick a biodegradable package over an easy-to-store plastic tub.

“I can always figure out how to store it,” Wagner said. “It’s a good habit to have.”

Still, graduate student Carson Reeling said he would choose a plastic tub over a biodegradable package.

“Relative cost would (be) a consideration,” he said.

Koutsimanis said the School of Packaging is trying to change the way fruits and vegetables are packaged.

“We are optimizing the process of how the package is performing.”

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