The world is awash in information – information that most people carry at their fingertips practically around the clock. One way that people use that information is to make more informed purchases. Many of today’s most important consumer insights have to do with their being more informed about ethical practices of the brands they know about as well as emerging brands.

Sustainability encompasses numerous values, including labor practices and animal welfare. 

One key issue for an increasing number of consumers is sustainability. The Hartman Group recently completed its Sustainability 2017 report, which offers key consumer insights related to sustainability. Consumers report wanting better sustainability in the brands they bring into their homes, but to what extent are they able to practice that conviction? There is little question that people use the information they gather online to inform their purchases, or at least to inform their opinions about brand values like sustainability.

Sustainability and Transparency

One of the strongest consumer insights reported by the Hartman Group is that approximately 70 percent of consumers want retailers to be more open and forthcoming about their sustainability efforts. While most people associate “sustainability” with environmental concerns, the term has expanded to include other important issues like labor practices and animal welfare. In short, consumers want to know what goes on behind the scenes, and they judge brands based on their overall ethical practices. 

In return, brands and retailers are responding, with many food producers offering new organic food products, cleaning up food labels to better inform consumers, and developing sustainable packaging designs. When done well by brands, transparency about sustainability also humanizes brands that may once have felt impersonal and removed.

Barriers to Purchasing Based on Sustainability

Of course, attitudes about sustainability are one thing, and purchase behaviors are another. Gaps between purchase intention and purchase behavior can often be chalked up to simple issues like price and availability. One study reported that the stronger a consumer’s ecological consciousness, the smaller the gap between their beliefs and purchase behavior. Could this finding also lead to consumer insights that gaps between beliefs and behaviors could be narrowed by making sustainable products more widely available at attractive price points? Perhaps. 

More Than Just a Feel-Good Factor

More than just a fad, sustainability is an entrenched concern for the welfare of future generations.

The fact is, today’s consumer believes that sustainability is more than just a feel-good factor, but is, in fact, a necessity for ensuring future generations have what they need and what they want. Exactly how the concept of sustainability manifests itself in consumer consciences appears to vary by generation. Older consumers, for example, equate sustainability with environmental measures, while younger consumers consider sustainability as a cornerstone of personal responsibility. In other words, the concept is not just a fad, but is, in fact, a long-term trend that CPG brands ignore at their peril.

Emerging CPG Issues

Sustainability is not the only issue producing important consumer insights in 2017 and moving forward. Another is an apparent division of the consumer market into so-called survivalists and selectionists. Survivalists want to cut spending and look for value, and many of them are retirees and young adults with significant college debt. They like value retailers like Aldi and Costco and will shop online for lower prices. 

Selectionists have the financial means to select for products they believe are of higher quality, and they are catered to by CPG brands that offer premium items and retailers like Whole Foods. While these issues are good news for both high-end and value brands and retailers, it makes things hard for mid-tier retailers and the CPG brands that stock them. It is important to note that both survivalists and selectionists care about sustainability. How and to what extent they are able to match purchasing behavior to their beliefs may differ, however. 

People want their favorite brands to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, and they are willing to change products if they feel their go-to brands are falling short. Consumer insights surrounding sustainability also touch on issues like price, convenience, and socioeconomic status, but there is essentially no significant segment of the consumer population that is unconcerned with sustainability. 

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Topics cpg, sustainable