KANSAS CITY — Consumers are placing the health of the planet ahead of the health of the population on their list of concerns, according to Innova Market Insights. The market researcher’s annual Lifestyle and Attitude Survey found 55% of shoppers in the United States and Canada are engaged in actions to help the environment.

Product launches carrying sustainability claims are growing at three times the pace of total food and beverage activity, according to Innova.

“This was top of mind for people across the board in the 11 countries we surveyed,” said Lu Ann Williams, co-founder and global insights director at Innova Market Insights. “Over the past two years, we’ve seen Australia catch on fire, we’ve seen historic floods… We have a huge drought in the US and a one-in-500-year drought in Europe.”

Ms. Williams spoke in the Trends and Innovations virtual webinar presented by Food Business News on Aug. 24. She said the impact of climate change varies by region. Some consumers have experienced colder-than-average winters. Others are weathering their area’s hottest summer on record.

“One thing we can say is there's no consumer that has not felt a personal impact from changes in climate or in pollution,” Ms. Williams said. “Everyone is affected.”

General interest in sustainability is driving awareness around specific issues, like water use, with the number of new launches featuring water-conscious claims growing 32% over the last five years. Another example is carbon emissions, with the number of products carrying a carbon-friendly claim tripling between 2018 and 2022.

“When carbon neutral claims first started coming out, maybe 10 years ago, they were really difficult to understand,” Ms. Williams said. “It’s still difficult to quantify, but we’re becoming more educated on how to think about carbon.”

With food manufacturing responsible for a third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, carbon neutral claims have become the “holy grail” for brands looking to bolster their environmental credentials, she added.

Ms. Williams highlighted several additional topics that are becoming more important for climate-conscious consumers, from regenerative agriculture and soil health to animal welfare, deforestation, food waste, ocean pollution, human exploitation and more. Watch the Trends and Innovations webinar on-demand to hear her insights on the challenges that come with communicating sustainable initiatives to shoppers and the impact those messages have on purchasing decisions.

Click here to view the full Trends and Innovations web series presented by Food Business News. Registration is free.