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Foodie Footprint: How Environmental Initiatives Influence Consumer Spending

Foodie Footprint: How Environmental Initiatives Influence Consumer Spending

According to research from consulting firm A.T. Kearney, consumers are prepared to give their business to retailers and manufacturers that demonstrate environmental benefits, so long as they aren’t being charged higher prices in the process.

It’s Earth Day, and consumers and companies alike are encouraged to review their food footprint in celebration of the event that puts a spotlight on the health of the planet.

People are becoming increasingly aware of how their purchases impact the environment and many companies are also demonstrating a growing consciousness as to how their operations utilize the earth’s resources.

Not only do environmentally-friendly initiatives benefit the supply chain, but there’s also a potential financial incentive for food brands and retailers to go green. According to new research from consulting firm A.T. Kearney, consumers are prepared to give their business to retailers and manufacturers that demonstrate environmental benefits, so long as they aren’t being charged higher prices in the process.

Of the 1,000 consumers A.T. Kearney surveyed, 80 percent believe that changing their personal everyday decisions is the most effective path to improving environmental outcomes, whereas only 20 percent of consumers believe that supporting NGOs and government is a more effective path.

“What we see in these findings is that the consumer market may be more receptive to buying green products than they were in years past,” said Greg Portell, an A.T. Kearney partner involved in the study. “But, they don’t want to sacrifice quality or pay higher prices to benefit the environment. And, two other things are clear. One, credibility, authenticity, and communications are critical to selling any benefits. And, two, consumers expect manufacturers and retailers to bear their fair share of the cost.”

The poll, which asked shoppers about their attitudes regarding the environmental impacts of their purchasing decisions, found certain “green” claims to be more impactful than others.

For example, a company claiming that their product is recyclable would have a greater influence over shoppers who consider this environmental benefit to be more immediate. However, claims made during the product production process like energy reduction or water quality improvement were shown to be less effective – fewer than 25 percent of consumers rank these claims among their top three purchasing decision influencers.

Millennials and Gen Z are both groups that have established a reputation for environmental stewardship, but according to the study, they’re not the only ones willing to put their hard-earned cash where their values are. The research predicts that consumers of all ages, including 70 percent of respondents age 18–44 and 62 percent of those 45 or older, see themselves shifting purchases towards “green” products in the coming year.

Several large corporations have also recently made changes to their operational processes in order to appeal to environmentally-conscious consumers while benefiting mother nature.

Nestlé announced a goal of using 100 percent reusable packaging by 2025. In January, the company released a Häagen-Dazs stainless-steel ice cream container and partnership with circular economy delivery service Loop.

The following month, Starbucks announced plans to donate all unsold food products from its Canadian stores to those in need, adding to the company’s existing program in the United States. The coffee retailer also said it would eliminate plastic straws from its stores worldwide by 2020 to reduce plastic pollution.

Plastic-curbing, food donations and circular economy initiatives are just a few examples of the countless ways that companies can boost their green standings among shoppers and celebrate Earth Day 365 days of the year.