What motivates purchases of sustainable food and beverage products?

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 19th August 2009

The food and beverage market is a central player in consumer perceptions of sustainability and new research has established the motivation behind sustainable purchases by shoppers.

A report by market research firms Packaged Facts and The Hartman Group, Consumers and Sustainability: Food and Beverage, has discovered that, 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. Therefore, as consumers become more educated about the environmental, social, and economic implications of foods and beverages, their health and wellness motivations harmonise with societal concerns, such that food shopping choices become linked to the four zones of sustainability:

* The Personal Benefit Zone
* The Environmental Zone
* The Social Zone
* 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,” Tatjana Meerman, Publisher of Packaged Facts, advised. “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.”

“Green” consumers have modified their behaviour in response to economic hardship, the report notes, but tradeoffs and cutbacks are less likely for products consumers view as essential to their quality of life, most notably food.

As a result, retailers in America have been seen to respond by improving 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.