Consumer Trends in the US and Canada: Sustainability and Ethics

Explore the latest consumer trends in the US and Canada, including sustainability and cost concerns

April  5, 2024 – Recent consumer trends research conducted by Innova Market Insights sheds light on several key topics regarding sustainability and ethics. These include who should have the most responsibility for tackling sustainability and ethical issues, what consumers are doing in response to their concerns about sustainability and ethics in the food and beverage market, and what attitudes they have related to packaging waste, recycling, reusing, and plastics.

Health of the Planet is a Top Concern 

Consumer trends research show that health of the planet is one of the top important and top sustainability-related concerns for consumers globally. Comparing the US and Canada, health of the planet is more important to consumers in Canada than consumers in the US. Looking at consumer trends specifically in North America, results show that consumers are increasing their focus on food security and nutrition.

Consumers Worry About Cost of Foods and Beverages 

According to recent consumer trends research, half of the consumers in North America are paying more attention to cost and value for the money when buying food and beverage products. Cost of living continues to go up in North America and this helps drive focus on food and beverage cost and value among consumers in North America when purchasing food and beverage. Concern about cost and value is particularly important when considering consumer interest in and willingness to pay for sustainable products.

Consumers in the US and Canada say that they are willing to pay more for particular global issues related to sustainability and ethics. Their top global issues that are worth paying more for are animal cruelty and ocean pollution. Consumers also think about how plant-based diets impact the environment and say they want more plant-based meal options.

Consumer Trends in the US and Canada

Consumers Say Companies Are Environmentally Responsible

A solid two-thirds of consumers in the US and Canada say that companies and governments should take responsibility for the environment. However, a sizable proportion of North American consumers do not trust the government and organizations, and this is a barrier in terms of consumers purchasing food, beverage, and packaging that offers sustainability solutions. One way that companies could build trust is by offering lower cost sustainable options such as reduced food waste and less packaging.

Consumers Complain About Too Many Eco-Labels 

Consumers notice environmentally friendly packaging in the food and beverage marketplace. However, consumers say that food and beverage products and packaging have too many eco-labels and therefore cause confusion. Companies and governments could consider aligning behind a single eco-score similar to the European Eco-Score system that pulls together all aspects of environmental impact into one label. Over half of consumers in North America say they would prefer to see this type of label.

Consumers Take Action Toward Recycling and Recyclable Packaging 

Consumers draw a clear line between what companies and governments can do to support sustainability and what consumers can do. Reducing and recycling are the top actions consumers take to be ethically  and environmentally responsible. But consumers say that recycling guidelines are not clear.

North American consumers are not sure which types of packaging are the most eco-friendly. Younger consumers like features such as reusable packaging while older consumers respond more to disposability and an increased percentage of recycled content in packaging. Consumers of all ages would like to see less plastic used in packaging. Also, households with high income are more likely to have increased their use of recyclable packaging.

Cost and Value in Sustainability Matter to Consumers 

While a sizable percentage of North American consumers pay attention to sustainability claims on packaging, few are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. Cost and value for the money are the main reasons given by consumers for avoiding sustainable packaging. Also, half of consumers in North America are trying to reduce food waste, in part as a way to save money.

What’s Next? More Plant-Based Meals, New Technologies, Increased Trust 

Consumers in the US and Canada say that they want more options for plant-based meals as a way to support sustainability. They also have positive feelings about new technologies, including innovation in agriculture. Companies and governments need to build consumer trust in their efforts toward sustainability. This could include alignment behind a single eco-score, as well as offering more lower-cost sustainability solutions to reduce food waste and packaging.


This article is based on our report, “Sustainability & Ethical Perspectives in US & Canadian Consumer Behavior.”
If you are interested in receiving this report, feel free to request a demo through our Contact Form.

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