Food

5 facts: How consumers seek and support sustainability

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Sustainability in most sectors, including pet food, has moved well beyond a trend associated with “tree-huggers” and has entered the mainstream as a business imperative, especially in this age of supply chain disruptions causing scarcity and rising prices of raw materials—not to mention the growing number of disasters wrought by climate change.

Pet food and other companies must strategize and commit resources to sustain themselves as healthy businesses but also to sustain the environments (natural and otherwise) in which they operate and market their products. And even aside from that context, today’s consumers increasingly demand sustainability-minded practices products from the companies to whom they consider giving their hard-earned money.

“The fast-growing role of sustainable choice is a lynchpin in marketplace competitive advantage as consumers begin to express their climate concern beliefs and values at the shelf and cash register,” wrote Bob Wheatley, CEO of Emergent, the Healthy Living Agency, in an article in Pet Age. “Beware the pet brands that choose to sit this one on the sidelines hoping the ‘climate thing’ will cool off,” he advised pet retailers. 

Backing up that type of advice is data showing consumers’ growing demands related to sustainability. These come from surveys conducted with general consumers, not just pet owners, but that doesn’t make the implications any less important for pet food brands.

5 sustainability data points worth tracking

Consider:

  1. 34% of U.S. consumers said they’re committed to or passionate about sustainability, according to the Brand Sustainability Solution report, part of a project organized by Emergent and the Brand Experience Group. Another 32% of respondents reported feeling concerned about sustainability.
  2. Younger groups of consumers, millennials and gen Z, are even more passionate about sustainability, with a full 47% combined lining up in that category. 
  3. Among consumers from 11 countries surveyed by Innova Market Insights, 30% said they consider environmentally friendly foods and beverages worth paying more for. This is at par with products that boost physical health and just behind ones that are locally produced (at 31%). Only fresh products, at 52%, are significantly worth paying more for, according to these consumers.
  4. Consumers in mid-level, mid-high and high-income groups surveyed by Innova named environmentally products their second or third choice worth paying more for. For low- to mid-low-income groups, the feature still ranked fourth or fifth. (The Brand Sustainability Solutions project also showed commitment to and passion for sustainability skewing toward higher-income households.)
  5. The link between higher incomes and sustainability is not surprising—yet another finding in the Innova survey is to some degree (while also encouraging): As respondents’ financial situations have worsened, they have become more likely to take actions such as minimizing food waste and to seek or purchase recycled, upcycled or repurposed products or items.

This latter point particularly helps make the case that consumers get the link between sustainability and financial savings and health—a tangible benefit beyond just feel-good ways to save the planet. Let’s hope more and more companies continue to follow suit.

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