When the consumption of sustainable foods is motivated by personal benefits, adoption mirrors a health and wellness progression in which consumers first consider the impacts of things in the body, followed by on the body, and finally around the body, according to the report. Therefore, as consumers become more educated about the environmental, social, and economic implications of foods and beverages, their health and wellness motivations dovetail with societal concerns, such that food shopping choices become salient to the four zones of sustainability: the Personal Benefit Zone; the Environmental Zone; the Social Zone; and the Economic Zone.
“Consumers view the food and beverage category as key to sustainability, perceiving organic and locally grown foods, fair trade products and the ethical treatment of animals as ways to positively impact their community and the world,” says Tatjana Meerman, publisher of Packaged Facts. “In addition, ‘freshness,’ although not technically contributing to sustainability, is considered important because foods and beverages that are closest to their natural state appear to have a direct connection to the earth.”
The report also indicates that sustainability consumers have modified their behavior in response to economic hardship; however, tradeoffs and cutbacks are less likely to be curtailed for products these consumers view as essential to their quality of life, most notably in food. So marketers are responding by upping the sustainability credentials of their private-label lines, opening up another pathway to sustainable-at-a-discount shopping. At the current intersection of sustainability awareness and financial downturn, the market is ripe for food and beverage products that allow consumers to shop more sustainably, but also spend less money.
The report draws from an online survey of 1856 U.S. adults consumers conducted in September 2008 by The Hartman Group, as well as qualitative research on sustainability in three markets (Seattle, Dallas and Columbus) during August 2008.
The collaborative partnership between Packaged Facts and The Hartman Group will yield a series of four reports in all—each deciphering the attitudes and behaviors of sustainable goods consumers in relation to specific products.
The other three reports in the series will focus on: OTC medications and supplements, personal care and household cleaners.