Green consumer shifts in attitude

Related tags Consumers Organic food

Products with both functional and emotional benefits may be the way
forward for manufacturers looking to make an impact on green
consumerism. In a new report released this week Datamonitor
highlights a changing shift in consumer attitude. Once driven by
altruism consumers are now looking to buy green products that make
them feel good at the same time.

Products with both functional and emotional benefits may be the way forward for manufacturers looking to make an impact on green consumerism. In a new report released this week, Datamonitor highlights a changing shift in consumer attitude. Once driven by altruism, consumers are now looking to buy green products that make them feel good at the same time.

Ethics and values are, after all, influencing the everyday shopping of European consumers, claims Datamonitor.

So-called 'green'consumerism is increasing in popularity, however, according to the report, and the green movement has changed since the media hype that surrounded it in the 1980s.

Apparently, consumers are now more likely to buy organic goods or environmentally friendly products motivatedby what makes them feel good about themselves, rather than for altruistic reasons.

An analysis by Datamonitor of several key green markets across Europe revealed that sales of organic foods and ethical personal care goods will continue to increase but vegetarianism will attract fewer new recruits.

While there will always be a niche group of altruistic consumers who aremotivated to buy green and ethical products for the greater good, themajority of consumers are motivated to purchase these goods on a moresuperficial level, the report continues.

An analysis of consumer attitudes and howcompanies are marketing themselves and their products revealed that morepeople are buying "green" because that is what makes them feel better, although some would argue that the same feeling can occur through altruism. But, according to the report, somemanufacturers have realised that putting self-interest first and altruismsecond makes for a successful product positioning. CaféDirect, for example,recently re-branded its fair trade coffee to 5065, marketing the quality ofthe product first and the fair trade aspect second.

"The majority of consumers want something that "does me good" but also "does good for someone or something else". Marketers need to recognise that, while consumers want to derive dualbenefits from a product, the benefits for the individual need to be strongerthan the benefits to any given cause.

As our daily routines are becomingmore time-pressured and stressful, we are looking to get back to basics.Consumers are demanding simpler, more wholesome products that have along-lasting value and not just a fleeting appeal. Consumer lifestyles arechanging in other ways too. Health has always been important, but nowadaysthere is greater emphasis on achieving total well-being - feeling andlooking good. Consumers expect their daily shopping to provide them withfunctional and emotional benefits,"​ said Dominik Nosalik, Datamonitorconsumer markets analyst and author of the report.

Consumer pressure on business ethics,in addition to consumer awareness of environmental and health issues,and an awareness of corporate ethics has also driven green product purchase.

Anti-corporate activism rose throughout the 1990s as more people recognised the rising power of large organisations. Attacks on companies suchas McDonalds and Starbucks during the 1999 riots in Seattle heightened the awareness of business ethics.

Datamonitor analysed several green consumer markets, including organic foods, vegetarian foods and ethical household and personal goods.

The organic sector represents one of the largest markets and research across seven European countries found that organic spending will nearlydouble over the next five years to reach a value of €17 billion. By 2006,58 per cent of European consumers will choose to eat organic food. In 2001, the UKhad 29 million adult consumers of organic food and drink, representingalmost half the population. Germany and France follow with 40 per cent and 38 per cent ofthe population eating organic produce respectively.

Organic consumers tendto fall into one of two groups. Those who buy into the "organic ethos"whole-heartedly and shift as much of their shopping as possible over toorganic products; and those who buy organics every now and then, seeingorganics as healthier or more prestige products and typically buying thembecause of their current "fashion".

There are 142 million consumers oforganic food and drink in Europe and a split can be seen between loyal andoccasional users. Loyal users account for 20 million people in Europe yetwere responsible for 69 per cent of spending in 2001. This suggests that a significantproportion of the organic market is not based on consumers who buyregularly. If production processes improve significantly in the conventionalfood market and/or organics lose their fashionable aspect, the market potentialof organics will be considerably less than most commentators predict, Datamonitor maintains.

According to the report, vegetarianism is receding in popularity. Overall there are 12 million vegetarians in Europe - an increase of 1million since 1996. However, growth in the number of full-time vegetarianshas been slowing down in recent years - there were only 100,000 additionalvegetarians between 2000 and 2001, the lowest increase since 1996.

Althougha core of loyal followers has developed in certain countries such as the UKand the Netherlands, vegetarianism is no longer attracting so many newrecruits. Many who joined in the late 1980s and early 1990s have abandonedvegetarianism as it has begun to lose its "trendy" appeal. Ultimately, the future growth offull-time vegetarians as a consumer segment will stabilise and will not seesignificant growth.

But this growth looks set to be generated from the increase inpeople actively reducing their meat consumption. Meat-reducers are motivatedprimarily by health concerns and account for 138 million people acrossEurope.

The UK and Germany have the greatest proportion of "meat-reducers" at46 per cent and 44 per cent of their respective populations. Even countries not noted fortheir vegetarian segments, such as France and Spain, have significantlylarge proportions of "meat-reducers" at almost a quarter of the populationeach.

Some 11 million new meat-reducers will join this segment by 2006.Significantly, this segment already accounts for a high proportion ofpeople, 36 per cent of Europeans overall. Datamonitor stressed that this group represents anattractive market for manufacturers and retailers to target.

Many green markets have often started from very humble beginnings to becomecommercial success stories. Organic food and natural cosmetics andtoiletries have hit the mainstream after many years as 'alternative' andniche markets. Green markets have often been encouraged by those consumers whobelieve strongly in a particular cause or way of life in response to a lackof suitable options.

The report​ concludes that the opportunity for manufacturers lies in spotting which of these markets has real market potential development and targetingthe mainstream consumer.

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