Earlier this year we released our 2017 Food and Beverage whitepaper, The Future of Food: Meeting Consumer Demands with Sustainable Resources. While the paper contained a number of interesting findings from our 2017 survey, the area that interested me most – especially as someone in the marketing profession – related to consumer demands and the benefits of using sustainability as a marketing tool.
Our survey showed that 67 percent of respondents believe being sustainable is good for public relations. Additionally, 61 percent said customers will choose one product over another if they note some type of corporate social responsibility practice. These numbers strongly show the benefits of using sustainability practice from a customer buy-in angle. Customers want to see that companies are doing their part to protect the environment, and businesses benefit from marketing their efforts in this area.
Consumers are demanding.
At our Food and Beverage Forum this year, where we released the 2017 whitepaper, our panelists Jeff Durbin (CFO at Gavina Coffee), Caue Suplicy (Founder and CEO at Barnana) and Amelia Winslow (Director of Operations and Project Management, Health-Ade Kombucha) devoted considerable time to discussing the ways consumer demands were shaping their businesses as well as their marketing efforts. Discussions on recyclable packaging as well as sustainable resourcing took front and center at the event.
The panelists acknowledged that consumers aren’t solely concerned with the contents of a product being healthy and/or organic. They also take an active interest in where products are sourced, what the farming practices are and the waste impact of the company, products and packaging. Modern consumers are educated about environmental issues, and it takes more than simply “razzle-dazzling” them with pretty packaging or a catchy advertisement to win their business. They want substance. They want to know facts. And those demands have driven companies to respond accordingly in order to be competitive.
Companies are responding.
Our survey showed that 77 percent of our respondents reported they have changed or added products based on consumer ethical or environmental concerns. This trend shows how the educated consumer is influencing companies’ behaviors. Their buying power is creating a paradigm shift in how food and beverage companies do business. Even companies such as McDonald’s are utilizing fair-trade coffee beans and big-box stores like Target are making commitments to using environmentally friendly packaging.
I, along with the Forum’s panelists, am interested in seeing these trends continue. It is a fascinating time as a marketer to observe the consumer holding so much power and influence into the decisions being made by large corporations – especially when that power is being used for such good! It makes it so much easier to get behind marketing a product when you believe in it and the company selling the product. I am looking forward to seeing more and more corporate giants jump onto the sustainability bandwagon and doing their part to protect the environment.