LAS VEGAS — The recession is making consumers greener, according to a researcher at the Natural Marketing Institute, speaking at the FMI 2010 show this month.
Linda Povey, vice president of strategic consulting for the Natural Marketing Institute, said recession-affected consumers are seeking value not just on shelf tags but on product labels, and even in the engagement and responsibility of the corporations that provide products.
“We are seeing this push borne out of the recession, where consumers are demanding greater value than ever before, and not just price-value but quality-value, and corporate responsibility: To make the most of everything I own,” Povey said. “This is becoming bigger and more prismatic than ever before.”
Povey termed this new demand for value a “personal return on investment” and is among the major trends NMI has tracked through customer surveys and other research. Around half of all consumers are interested in knowing more about the corporations that supply the products they buy, Povey noted. Consumers' “green” concerns in the meantime are shifting from post-consumption based, such as recycling the product they use, further up the supply chain to the practices employed by the product supplier and retailer.
“The sense of wanting a social or emotional return on the things we buy seems to be growing larger,” she said. “Part of that is because money is tighter and the consumer is saying, ‘I want the biggest bang for my buck. I want to buy from a company with values like mine.’”
This, Povey said, has made value-driven marketing more important for corporations, which should give thought to organizations and charities to back when marketing products. She cited Sun Chips for effectiveness in communicating a message to speak to this customer, first by leading a whole-grain movement and more recently by introducing recyclable packaging.
“It's really revolutionary; it's not just paying for a bag of chips and eating them; it's a larger emotional and socially engaging consumer experience,” she said.
Povey added that green concerns “have penetrated the consciousness” of consumers, particularly over the last 18 months, with research showing shoppers who didn't care about the environment four years ago now showing an interest.
This is an opportunity for food, which tends to be a gateway for the healthful lifestyle choices that accompany a green consciousness, she argued.
“The food industry still has tremendous opportunity to make an impact on planetary health by fusing that with ideas about food and personal health,” she said.
NMI research points to a trend of consumers seeking “simplicity and purity” in foods, seeking products with few ingredients and simple claims of benefits. They are also being less willing to pay a premium for them than they once were.
“It indicates that consumers are expecting these things,” she said.