Why FMCG brands must start to acknowledge sustainability

Posted: 27 July 2021 | | No comments yet

“UK shoppers are already voting with their wallets,” claims Hearts & Science Chief Strategy Officer, suggesting a more eco-conscious market.

One in five UK consumers (21 percent) have consciously stopped buying a particular brand or product over concerns of sustainability and environmental impacts. According to a recent YouGov study, those concerns peak when it comes to the weekly grocery shop.

More than a third (36 percent) of shoppers say they’ve stopped buying from a food and drink brand due to its lack of eco-credentials, and 33 percent have done so for household essentials. 

The study also noted that 65 percent thought a brand’s sustainability credentials were important when buying household essentials and 62 percent said so for food and drink. Overall, a fifth of respondents (22 percent) said they regularly choose eco-friendly products over less sustainable equivalents, and 48 percent said they do so sometimes.

In comparison to the previous 12 months, around a third of consumers say they plan to spend more on eco-friendly products in FMCG categories this year (32 percent for food and drink and 31 percent for household essentials).

A total of 2,000 UK adults were surveyed by media agency Hearts & Science  through YouGov, commissioned for the agency’s latest Forces of Change report, a study into the growth of conscious consumerism. 

“UK shoppers are already voting with their wallets,” said Simon Carr, Chief Strategy Officer at Hearts & Science. “It’s not just that they’ll choose products and brands that have the best green credentials, they’ll actively stop buying those that don’t.

“FMCG brands need to be smarter in how they demonstrate their concern for the environment and can no longer get away with paying lip service. Savvy consumers want to see evidence that their shopping habits aren’t hurting the world around them, or they’ll go elsewhere.”

The study also found that people are making an effort to be more eco-friendly in how they shop: 55 percent use their local high street to avoid transport emissions, and nine percent now shop at zero-waste/refill stores.

“We see a clear appetite from our customers for eco-friendly products when deciding what to buy,” said Laura Harricks, chief customer officer at Ocado Retail. 

Garrett O’Reilly, managing director of Hearts & Science, concludes that there is more support among customers for sustainable products: “If grocery brands fail to address this, they are failing their customers and society more generally, especially as the research shows that products in the FMCG category are at the forefront of the drive towards sustainable shopping. This gives the grocery sector a clear opportunity to capitalise on the green demand and encourage consumers to make smarter choices.

“It’s not idealistic to be green: it makes good business sense. Mark Carney, the former Governor of the Bank of England, has said that firms ignoring the climate crisis will go bust.” Claims such as this could leave grocery businesses wondering what the risks are if sustainability does not become a key focus for the company.

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