Survey shows perception vs. reality with sustainability

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — Fifty-four per cent of shoppers demonstrated that they actively consider environmental sustainability characteristics in their buying decisions, according to a new study released today by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (G.M.A.) and Deloitte. But while shoppers may be thinking the sustainable attributes of products, they actually bought green products on just 22% of their shopping trips.

"We found that for most shoppers, sustainable considerations are an important tie-breaker when deciding between two otherwise equal products and they are a driver in product switching," said Brian Lynch, director of sales and sales promotion for the G.M.A. "But it’s not enough to just put green products on the shelf. We have to better educate consumers and leverage in-store communication to make the sale."

Of the shoppers surveyed, 95%, are open to considering green products, 67% looked for green products, 47% actually found them and 22% purchased some green products on their shopping trip. The survey’s results highlight the need for better shopper marketing programs to close the gap, according to the survey’s authors.

Sometimes concerns about product performance and credibility of the environmental claims were reasons for shoppers to opt not to buy green products, but more often communication and product education were found to be the biggest obstacles.

The study also found a significant minority of committed and proactive green shoppers will pay a premium for sustainable products; however, the larger potential population of shoppers that lean toward green want price and performance parity for sustainable products because it is not their dominant purchase driver.

"Sustainable product characteristics are emerging as an important brand differentiator, but to capture the potential market value of green shoppers, retailers and manufacturers must do a better job of communicating the sustainable attributes behind the products to show the value of buying green to the shopper," said Scott Bearse, director and retail leader of Deloitte L.L.P.’s Enterprise Sustainability group. "Consistent, aligned messaging in stores, on-line and at other touch points will be essential to converting shoppers from simply being interested in green to buying green."

More than 6,400 shopper interviews were conducted for the survey, which is the basis of a larger G.M.A.-Deloitte report titled "Finding the Green in Today’s Shoppers: Sustainability Trends and New Shopper Insights." The full report may be downloaded by visiting www.gmabrands.com/publications/greenshopper09.pdf.

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