Shared Planet: demand for environmentally friendly choices has never been higher

According to a new report on this trend from Innova Market Insights, consumer priorities certainly shifted in 2021 and, even in the middle of a global pandemic, the health of the planet overtook health of the population as the major global concern for consumers.

When asked about the big environmental issues, the global picture suggests that consumers care most about animal cruelty, plastic waste and food waste. There are regional variations in consumer response, however. In Latin America, water shortages and deforestation are already impacting local lives and livelihoods, so consequently came out on top. Meanwhile, in Europe high-profile media coverage has helped raise consumer awareness about plastic waste and ocean pollution, with these now the top two regional concerns.

The food and beverage industry is responding well to rising environmental demands and product launches carrying environmental claims are growing at three times the pace of total food and beverage NPD. Looking at specific issues, launches of products using recycled plastic rose at a CAGR of 59% in the five years ending Q3 2021. Even major multinationals are making much of this issue, as seen with several of Pepsi’s cola drinks in the UK , relaunched in October 2021 in new bottles prominently featuring “100% Recycled” claims on the labels.

Recycled plastic bottles: Pepsi Max Cherry Cola (UK, October 2021), Water saving: Kazoo Bite Sized Tortilla Chips (US, October 2021), Carbon emissions: Violife Vioblock Unsalted Vegetable Fat Spread (Greece, January 2022)

Launches of products carrying water-saving and carbon emissions claims also increased at CAGRs of almost 50% over the past five years. In many instances, manufacturers are starting to add quantification to these claims. For example, Kazoo’s tortilla chips in the US are made with 40% upcycled corn germ and front-of-pack claims state that they use 20 gallons less water per bag than snacks made with 100% new-growth corn. Similarly, other companies are quantifying carbon emissions. The Violife non-dairy cheese business includes carbon emissions information on selected products in its range, including the Vioblock vegetable fat spread which has a climate footprint of 0.5kg of CO2 equivalent per 100g.

One of the fastest growing areas of sustainability messaging is upcycling, with launches of products containing upcycled ingredients rising at a triple-digit CAGR over the past five years. Although interest in this has understandably lagged behind more well-established environmental measures, still around one in three consumers feel that products with upcycled ingredients are more appealing. Further promotion of the concept is necessary to raise awareness of the benefits, and continued NPD will certainly increase consumer exposure.

Looking ahead, there are still challenges for environmentally friendly product development. For example, over half of consumers believe that there are simply too many different environmental labels and almost two-thirds would prefer one label that captures the full environmental impact of a product. Schemes such as Eco-Score in Europe are already tackling this issue and similar projects are emerging all the time.

Meanwhile, the economic impact of the pandemic is starting to hit harder in many major countries around the world and, with rapid inflation, the cost of living is rising for many consumers. Expense is already the single most important reason that consumers give for NOT shopping sustainably, so it is vital that prices are kept at acceptable levels for increasingly cash-strapped customers.

“Shared Planet” is a new Trends Insider report from Innova Market Insights, assessing issues related to Innova’s #1 Top Ten Trend for 2022. Through consumer research and analysis of new product activity, it assesses the public and industry response to big environmental issues. It also looks at environmental labeling and the potential cost barrier that consumers face in shopping sustainably.

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