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Gen Z Loves Clean Packaging: Here's What Branding Machinists Need To Know About Next Generation Of Branding Here's how Generation Z end users are steering brands towards sustainable development.

By Hiren Panchal

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We're here in 2020: the next decade will see Generation Z (Gen Z), the world's first digital native generation, come of age. Members of Gen Z have had the Internet at their fingertips throughout their lives. This has had a profound impact on how they see things and what they respond to in terms of branding.

Information means awareness. Because they've spent their entire lives in an information-saturated environment, Gen Z is highly aware of a whole range of issues. For them, where a product is from and how it was made matter just as much as the price and quality. This extends to packaging as they love clean packaging as well. To tap into this market, brand machinists need to look towards packaging that reflects their brand's social and environmental consciousness.

What Is Clean Packaging?

The term clean packaging is often misunderstood. It's easy to mistake it for a packaging take on clean design. Clean packaging, however, has less to do with how packaging looks and more to do with what it represents in terms of transparency and authenticity.

It is the latest evolution of the consumer-driven clean movement—a movement that promotes transparency when it comes to product ingredients. Clean label promotes products that include a minimal number of ingredients, and which list these ingredients in a simple, transparent manner. It applies the clean label concept to product packaging. Many products on the market use packaging that's derived from unsustainable sources, harming the environment. "Unclean' packaging can cause harm to individuals as well. Plastics and fluorocarbons are main culprits.

Why Does Gen Z Like Clean Packaging?

When talking about Gen Z's preferences, one avoidable factor is the ubiquity of online connectivity. Many members of the Gen Z cohort have never experienced a situation in which Internet access and instant connectivity were unavailable. This has had a profound impact on shaping their world-views. Its members learn about the impacts of global warming, labor inequality, and other issues of global importance from early childhood. And, crucially, because the Internet is an open repository of information, they have access to multiple sources. This makes transparency and responsibility extremely important factors in their buying decisions. It appeals to them because it minimizes their environmental footprint and guarantees an ethical, environmentally-friendly product experience.

What Can Brand Machinists Do About Clean Packaging?

If your target audience includes a large number of the millenial and Gen-Zs, it's a good idea to assess the state of your packaging right now. What kinds of packaging do you use for your products? Does your packaging material harm the environment? Is your packaging sourced sustainably? Are there alternatives with a lower social and environmental footprint that won't radically increase material costs?

As a rule of thumb, natural and sustainably sourced packaging is almost always cleaner. If you package your product in plastic, consider using either biodegradable plastic or paper packaging. If your product is a food item, recycled paper, cardboard, and glass are excellent clean alternatives to plastic.

It needs to be seen as an extension of Gen Z's increased social and environmental awareness. As such, clean packaging by itself isn't likely to yield positive branding outcomes. It needs to be one aspect of a holistic effort to promote the brand's awareness, responsibility and transparency. Many product categories from organic food to artisanal manufacturing to software are inherently "clean', and many businesses might be using clean packaging without actually being aware of it. It can be used but not communicated. By leveraging just the right amount of branding, it's possible to reposition existing products as being clean with minimal effort. And even in the case of businesses that don't utilize clean packaging, simple, cost-effective tweaks such as using recycled plastic can go a long way towards conveying the message of clean packaging to an audience that increasingly demands it.


As the world becomes more interconnected, it's becoming increasingly important for brands to become aware of their impact on the environment and society on the whole. Product audiences are becoming more and more aware by the day. The move towards clean packaging is just one manifestation of this. The long-term solution here is for businesses to assess how they're perceived in terms of consciousness. Branding tomorrow needs to be about outreach, showcasing positive change and responsibility.

Hiren Panchal

Co-founder and director, Litmus Branding

Hiren Panchal is the co-founder of Litmus Branding, India’s growing Advertising and Digital Branding Agency. He has a strong, multi-faced experience of 22 years in the areas of branding, advertising, marketing, designing and project management. With sound expertise in brand establishment, he has helped strengthen the brand assets for clients like Coca Cola, Payson Petroleum, India Institute of Management (IIM) Udaipur, Haldiram's, Sabi Foods, Almeer Saudi, IRU, and many more.


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