People Power – how the glass industry is mobilising support from consumers

For those of us who work in the industry, the benefits of glass are obvious. We understand what an amazing material it is and why society would be a far poorer place without it in our everyday lives. From the moment we get out of bed in the morning to last thing at night, we have used and interacted with glass numerous times. Just think about it: the smartphone that wakes us up, our reflection in the bathroom mirror, our toast with jam or marmalade from a jar, the tablet we read the daily news on, the windscreen of our car, the shop cabinet that holds our lunchtime sandwich, the microwave or oven that cooks our dinner, the TV we relax in front of and the Kindle we nod off reading in bed – glass really is all about us.

However, there are some that say other materials can do a better job than glass, particularly when it comes to packaging for food and drink. In recent times, with depressing regularity it seems, yet another favourite on the supermarket shelf is no longer available in glass, and bids by the industry to try and persuade brand owners and retailers otherwise have fallen on deaf ears. So in 2009, the container glass sector decided it was time to try a different approach and take matters into its own hands.  The result was Friends of Glass – a consumer-facing forum dedicated to helping ensure consumers can continue to choose glass packaging.  By working together through Feve, the European Container Glass Federation, glass container manufacturers and national associations in 12 countries created this movement that not only speaks directly to the consumer, it allows the consumers to speak to us. And for the first time, we were hearing what people – our ultimate customers - thought about glass – and we liked what we heard.

In just over three years since its creation, Friends of Glass is a success story that keeps on growing. It now enjoys a community of nearly 33,000 Friends, with over 40,000 Facebook fans and 7,200 Twitter followers. Social media has been a vital key driver in the Friends of Glass success, enabling us to reach out to so many people who are passionate about glass and want their voices to be heard. To support these interactions, a network of ‘conversation managers’ have been appointed throughout Europe to connect with followers by sharing interesting images, information and tips – all celebrating the extraordinary benefits of glass.

To add further weight to the Friends of Glass cause, Feve has undertaken wide-ranging consumer research into attitudes and opinions towards packaging across Europe. One of the most striking findings from the most recent survey in 2010 was that an impressive 75% of Europeans prefer their food and drink products in glass packaging¹.

The movement’s core messages that glass is best for health, taste and the environment are used to drive creative initiatives and provide a consistent thread in all our activities. In 2011, Friends of Glass celebrated the health benefits of glass with a hard-hitting campaign Nothing is Good For You which highlighted that the inert make-up of glass made it the ideal material to keep food safe and fresh. It’s a message that has particular resonance today with ongoing concerns about food waste illustrated by the new research from WRAP and partners² which highlights the important role appropriate food packaging plays in reducing waste. Glass’ natural ability to keep food fresher for longer while also being re-sealable makes it one of the more obvious solutions to the problem.

Finding and sharing engaging content is king in the social media world  - as is having fun. Friends of Glass has used the fun factor to great effect with two highly successful Facebook games that have helped dramatically increase followers. The most recent, Little Taste Testers, attracted 8,000 people who played the game, 7,000 of which became new Friends of Glass. An impressive 260,000  people viewed the game in total.

But Friends of Glass isn’t just confined to online activities. Individual countries have augmented the forum’s virtual presence with traditional PR support. For example, in the UK, we ran a live version of the Taste Testers game the BBC Good Food Show, which proved very popular. Visitors were invited to put on a blindfold and guess what type of jam or chutney they were tasting – all out of glass jars naturally! We recruited nearly 2,000 new Friends and gathered further evidence that support for glass packaging was as strong as ever. We realised too that while other types of packaging for food and drink may be seen as functional and necessary, it is only glass that people actually feel passionate about.

Looking to the future, Friends of Glass has a new programme underway that will help forge ahead into 2014 and beyond. We will continue to gather support, helping harness the passion that consumers so clearly feel about glass. Let’s hope those brand and retailer boardrooms are listening.


¹Insites Research - Feve
²Consumer Attitudes to Food Waste and Food Packaging – WRAP, INCPEN

Reproduction of this published material is provided courtesy of Glass International

Published in Glass International April 2013.

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