Sustainability leads consumers’ purchasing decisions, new Innova Market Research data confirms

The market researcher will share its latest consumer trend insights at the upcoming IFT First Annual Event & Expo in Chicago on July 10-13.

For the first time, data collected by market researcher Innova Market Insights (Arnhem, Netherlands) for its Lifestyle & Attitude Survey show that sustainability is now a top global concern among consumers—even surpassing their concerns about population health. Innova says it will share its latest consumer trend insights at the upcoming IFT First Annual Event & Expo in Chicago on July 10-13 at booth #S1175.

“For the first time ever, more consumers surveyed globally for Innova’s Lifestyle & Attitude Survey say health of the planet is their top global concern, rather than health of the population,” said Lu Ann Williams, Innova’s insights director, in a press release.

Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers grew more concerned about the health of the environment and its relationship to their own behaviors and purchases. For instance, says Innova, nearly half of consumers are cutting food waste, while 63% say they prefer to eat at a restaurant that actively prevents or reduces food waste.

Sustainability also drives their consumer packaged goods choices, with 20%-25% saying they switched up their product choices for environmental reasons, such as opting for products that are sustainably grown or that come in sustainable packaging.

Manufacturers are listening to these demands and responding in kind. Innova reports that product launches with environmentally friendly claims are growing at three times the rate of overall total food and beverage launches. Specifically, it reports:

“Ethical claims regarding the environment increased their share of total food and beverage launches from 4.4% in 2016-2017 to 6.6% in 2020-2021, for a 17.3% CAGR over the five years ending Q3 2021. Growth is even faster for specific issues. In the five years ending Q3 2021, launches of food and beverages using upcycled ingredients rose at a CAGR of 122%, compared with 59% for products using recycled plastic, 49% for products with water saving claims, 47% for products carrying carbon emissions claims, and 36% for palm oil free products. Europe drives claims regarding palm oil; 88% of all launches with ‘palm oil free’ claims were made in Europe.”

Even the higher cost of sustainable products may not dissuade consumers from purchasing. While nearly 3 in 10 consumers acknowledged that environmentally friendly products can cost more, over half of consumers still say they are willing to pay more for products that address plastic waste (64%), ocean pollution (63%), and food waste (62%).

Finally, says Innova, manufacturers must clearly state their products’ environmental benefits in order to stand out in a crowded market. “In our Innova Trends Survey 2021, 55% of consumers globally say that there are too many environmental labels and they don’t know what to look for,” said Williams. “Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of consumers surveyed globally agree or strongly agree that they prefer one label that captures the complete impact on the environment over multiple labels.”