Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Packaging Science

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Andrew Hurley

Committee Member

Dr. William Bridges

Committee Member

Dr. Duncan Darby

Committee Member

Dr. Sarah Griffin


The meal and snack bar sector is growing in popularity with consumers demanding convenient nourishment options. Currently, brands are developing sustainable packaging alternatives in the flexible industry to package goods like meal and snack bars. These innovations include compostable and recyclable wrappers which have not yet been seen in this space until recent years. The objective of this research is to investigate the misalignments between environmental impact realities and consumer perceptions of packaging seen in the meal and snack bar industry. This work began with a retail audit. Material analysis was then performed on these structures using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) to understand the polymeric identities of the wrapper layers. With this information, Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) were performed to understand the environmental impacts associated with each wrapper from the collection. A survey launched to a U.S. census-based representative sample (n=1100) provided thought-provoking insights into the numerous misalignments between packaging reality and consumer perceptions. Diving into the chasm between consumer perceptions and real-world environmental consequences, questions regarding disposal behaviors, material alternatives, and environmental threats were asked of consumers. The findings illuminate the disparity between consumer convictions and ISO-compliant carbon measurements. This research emphasizes the preferences consumers display when faced with identical products in compostable, store drop-off recyclable, and landfill-directed packaging, paired with their respective carbon footprints. The gaps between packaging realities and consumer perceptions bolster the need for further research on the correct way to educate consumers on the real impacts of “sustainable” innovations.



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