FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. — A recent survey by Southwick Associates suggests that more than 30% of anglers would pay more for fishing tackle packaged without single-use plastics.
The results, which came packaged as part of Southwick Associates bi-monthly general interest and conservation questionnaire, reveal a growing awareness among outdoor enthusiasts surrounding the impact of single use plastics on fisheries—so much so, that around 33% of anglers indicated they would pay more for tackle packaged without single-use plastics.

Additionally, 84% of people who indicated they would be willing to pay more for tackle packaged without single-use plastics said they would pay an additional 5-25% of the retail price for that product.

“The results need careful interpretation,” explains Southwick Associates President Rob Southwick. “In our experience, people always overstate what they will pay more for. In such a survey, they have a chance to think about the merits of the higher priced product, and since they are not actually shelling out cash, they are more likely to say they’d buy it. In reality, maybe 5-10% fewer actually would. We see this lots with ‘Made in the USA’ questions, where people say they will pay more, but in reality most do not.”

By Southwick’s estimation, that still leaves a significant portion of surveyed anglers who recognize the importance of reducing the negative environmental impact of single-use plastics and are willing to pony up to do their part.

Growing awareness of single-use plastics in fishing

Single-use plastics are plastic products that are only used once before being thrown away. Items like soda bottles, plastics bags, plastic straws and coffee stirrers are the most common targets of scrutiny; however, fishing tackle packaging typically falls inline with that description as well. Some plastics commonly used in blister packaging and clamshells—like the kind hard baits and high-end soft plastics are packaged in—are extremely difficult to recycle.

Earlier this year, Danish tackle brand Westin initiated an effort to eliminate as many single-use plastics as possible from its packaging, eliminating 600 pounds of plastic per 10,000 piece shipment in the process. Most of that savings came from the elimination of blister packs within its Swim SW series of glide baits. And officials at Westin say no price markups were needed after eliminating the surplus plastics.

Z-Man Fishing Products President Daniel Nussbaum says his company is starting to pursue cost-effective solutions to eliminating single-use plastics in their packaging.

Elsewhere, American Sportfishing Association (ASA) President Glenn Hughes says the organization has no official stance towards single-use plastics. “The top concerns for our trade and commerce right now are tariffs, excise taxes and more bans on things like soft plastics,” said Hughes.

Consumer trends in sustainability

Though sustainable packaging is a fresh conversation for the fishing industry, a 2018 Nielson report suggests that consumers are coming to expect sustainable buying options from food brands. The study predicts the sustainability market to reach $150 billion by 2021, and concludes that half of U.S. shoppers are prepared to prioritize purchasing products that are healthier for themselves and for the planet. Among those shoppers, 75% of millennials were already altering their shopping habits compared to 34% of baby boomers.

Will that trend continue into the fishing tackle world? That’s difficult to predict. However, that same Nielson report adds that sales of sustainable goods have risen 20% since 2014. As tackle manufacturers continue to seek supply chain savings and new ways to engage younger buyers, the attention of some is already shifting towards eliminating unsustainable, and at times unnecessary packaging.

Written by Joe Sills

Published in Fishing Tackle Retailer October 10, 2019