SOURCE: Packaged Facts

Packaged Facts

September 22, 2009 13:18 ET

Consumers and Sustainability: A Market Update for CPG Goods

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - September 22, 2009) - Market research firms Packaged Facts and The Hartman Group have joined forces to publish a series of reports tracking current consumer attitudes and shopping behaviors in relation to "sustainable" consumer packaged goods. The four reports in the just-completed series on Consumers and Sustainability are Food and Beverage, Personal Care, Household Cleaners, and OTC Medications and Supplements.

Sustainability means different things to different people. Asked to identify what the term means to them, consumers most frequently respond "the ability to last over time" and "the ability to support oneself." Sustainability is also strongly associated with environmental concerns, whereby consumers are being challenged to develop and express an "eco-consciousness" in their daily habits and purchases. But using "eco-conscious" or "green" as synonymous with sustainability unduly limits the frame of reference; these older terms fail to acknowledge the variety of social, economic and environmental issues that real-world individuals believe to be important to sustaining themselves, their communities, and society at large.

Thus, as consumers become more educated about the environmental, social, and economic implications of food and beverage choices, their health and wellness motivations dovetail with larger societal concerns. A close relationship develops between sustainability and emerging definitions of food quality, as consumers use sustainable attributes to infer food quality, and food quality to infer sustainability.

Within the personal care market, personal health and wellness concerns remain the most important motivation for purchasing sustainable products. Nonetheless, "natural" remains a meaningful reference point for a variety of sustainable personal care products, even if the term has lost significance in other packaged good categories.

Household cleaning products with a sustainable side have only recently begun to enter the American mainstream. Formerly, the act of cleaning was a form of "germ warfare," and entailed a combative relationship between consumers and their environment. Recently, however, more consumers talk about the idea of working with nature, not against it, to naturally restore balance to their home environment. At the same time, increased media coverage of tainted medications due to human error and globalized production has generated rising consumer awareness about sustainability issues surrounding over-the-counter medications and supplements.

In response to the current economic downturn, many consumers have modified their purchasing behaviors in relation to sustainable products. Nonetheless, Consumers and Sustainability argues that tradeoffs and cutbacks are less likely for product categories that sustainability consumers view as essential to their quality of life, with food at the top of that list, and also including personal care and household cleaners. Because over-the-counter medications are not considered quite as essential, consumer cutbacks are more likely to hurt sales of higher-priced sustainable versions of OTC meds and supplements.

The Consumers and Sustainability four-report series draws on an online survey of 1,856 U.S. adult consumers conducted in September 2008 by The Hartman Group, as well as qualitative research on sustainability in three markets (Seattle, Dallas, and Columbus) during August 2008. In addition, Packaged Facts provides a market update based on various Packaged Facts market-specific studies, a Packaged Facts February 2009 online consumer poll, and Experian Simmons national consumer surveys fielded November 2008 through June 2009. For further information, please visit: http://www.packagedfacts.com

About Packaged Facts -- Packaged Facts, a division of Market Research Group, publishes market intelligence on a wide range of consumer market topics, including consumer goods and retailing, foods and beverages, demographics, pet products and services, and financial products. Packaged Facts also offers a full range of custom research services. To learn more, visit: www.packagedfacts.com. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

About The Hartman Group -- The Hartman Group, located in Bellevue, Washington, blends leading-edge customized research and consulting to understand the subtle complexities of consumer behavior. Since 1989, Hartman Group has been listening loudly to the underlying motivations and behaviors that move the needle for our clients. To learn more about how Hartman Group stays sharply focused on how consumers live, shop and use brands and products visit: www.hartman-group.com.

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