Many different forces impact the needs and behaviors of consumers. One macrotrend is a focus on health and a healthy lifestyle, leading consumers to seek ways to access good nutrition. Pressures around cost of living and inflation drive consumers to seek ways to balance enjoyment with essentials. Ongoing wars and threats around the world make consumers seek safety and protection. Advances in technology affect the way consumers shop and live, with a desire to explore new opportunities and avoid missing out. In terms of environmental trends impacting consumer behavior, concern about health of the planet inspires consumers to do what they can to reduce their impact on the environment. Supporting sustainability is one such action.
Sustainability Picks up Traction
Consumer trends show that all generations are concerned about the health of the planet, with nearly two in five consumers in Europe stating this as their top concern. Although health of the planet is important to all ages, more Boomers are concerned, followed by Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers. Consumers in Europe also are aware of plastic waste and food waste as critical issues.
In addition to their own values and beliefs about food and beverage choices, consumers surveyed expect the industry to stand up for sustainability. Over half of consumers of all ages agree with the statement that they believe their food and beverage choices largely reflect their values and beliefs, including sustainability. However, they also believe the food and beverage industry is accountable for taking action toward sustainability and other values and beliefs.
Governments Need to be Sustainability Partners
Sustainability is a collective action between consumers, manufacturers, and the government. Nearly three-quarters of European consumers, led by Boomers, expect companies to invest in sustainability, and nearly three-quarters of European consumers, also led by Boomers, think the government should set stricter rules for companies to tackle the world’s environmental problems.
Consumers Take Action Toward Sustainability
Consumers in Europe say that environmental factors such as sustainability and waste reduction should drive the development of new products. This belief is held by one-third of Boomers compared to about one-quarter of Gen Zers and Millennials. Consumer trends data show that minimizing food waste is the top consumer action toward being more environmentally responsible – over half of Boomers and one-third of Gen Z have taken action. Other actions include purchasing products with environmentally friendly packaging or less packaging and choosing more sustainably grown and produced products.
Younger Consumers Embrace Upcycling
Younger consumers are driving the upcycling movement, with half agreeing that a product with upcycled ingredients is more appealing than other products are. Here, agreement was seen among one-third of Gen X consumers but only one-quarter of Boomers. When asked about the quality of upcycled ingredients, more than four in 10 Millennial and Gen Z consumers in Europe agree that upcycled ingredients are better in quality than regular ingredients.
Packaging Claims Call Attention to Sustainability
A major consumer trend is that European consumers, especially Gen Z and Millennial consumers, pay attention to sustainability claims on packaging. Manufacturers can use labeling claims to promote various aspects of sustainability, including sustainable packaging, renewable ingredient and packaging material sources, reduction of plastic from fossil fuels, and lower carbon footprint. When asked in a consumer survey about which sustainable claims influenced food and beverage purchasing decisions, the highest percentages of consumers named climate positive, less CO2 emissions, and carbon neutral. In fact, carbon emissions claims are a key sustainability indicator and over half of European consumers agree that carbon emissions associated with a product are the most important factor to determine how sustainable a product is.
Eco-Labels Should be Simple and Honest
Europeans prefer products with a single, simple label that communicates the product’s complete impact on the environment. They also do not trust a lot of “green” claims. The European Union plans to manage so-called greenwashing by prohibiting misleading environmental claims such as carbon neutral and CO2 neutral on product packaging. New legislation will serve to prevent companies from misleading consumers regarding environmental actions.
What’s Ahead in the Sustainability Journey?
Sustainable packaging needs to be designed to preserve quality and flavor. Consumers are skeptical about effects on sensory quality of products, with nearly half of Millennials and Gen Z consumers in Europe are concerned that sustainable packaging will affect the flavor and quality of foods and beverages. Nearly one-quarter of European survey respondents of all ages would like to see sustainable information when using connected packaging technologies, and Boomers are becoming more willing to accept new technologies that support sustainability and sustainable farming practices.
Although consumer trends show that every generation is concerned about the health of the planet, Boomers are more concerned than younger consumers. While Boomers more than consumers of other generations say they have taken action to minimize food waste, younger generations are leading the upcycling movement.
Standardization of label sustainability claims can provide consumers with recognizable, easy-to-understand, honest labels about environmental benefits. New technologies, connective packaging, and technology-driven farming practices are appreciated by all, especially Boomers and especially if they result in sustainable impacts.
This blog is based on Innova’s live presentation at Fi Europe 2023: “Sustainability Unwrapped: Consumer Attitudes & Behavior Through a Generational Lens.”
If you are interested in learning about this presentation, feel free to request a demo. You can do this by either booking a demo or using our Contact Form.