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What Shoppers Want: A Greater Commitment to Sustainability

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With climate change being a top concern worldwide over the next decade (according to a survey from UNESCO), it’s no surprise that consumers are worried about the future of planet Earth.

In particular, new data from Acosta, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based sales and marketing company, shows that 56% of shoppers are very concerned about the environment’s future. Further, 4 in 10 say they’re more anxious about sustainability now than they were before the coronavirus pandemic.

3 in 4 younger Americans say sustainability is somewhat (or very) important

When buying consumer packaged goods, 3 in 4 Gen Zers and millennials (ages 40 and younger) say that sustainability is important, either somewhat or very.

Indeed, shoppers overall are putting in the work to live greener lifestyles. Eight in 10 (80%) have made it top of mind to reduce, reuse and recycle consumer products and packaging, while 60% are keeping an eye on product packaging and its environmental impact.

Across generations, boomers and older shoppers (ages 57 and older) are more inclined to recycle, while Gen Zers and millennials are more likely to modify their buying habits. Plus, 63% of all respondents are more likely to scope out minimally processed food and beverage products.

Consumers willing to pay more for sustainability

If it’s about putting your money where your mouth is, consumers are acting in line with their values. According to the Acosta survey, shoppers are willing to dole out more dollars for sustainable products, including:

  • Plant-based meat alternatives (81%)
  • Personal care and beauty products (80%)
  • Dairy and dairy alternatives (78%)
  • Meat and poultry (74%)

In addition, 85% of shoppers who buy eco-friendly products say they always will, or at least most likely will, buy them going forward.

So what’s been filling shoppers’ carts? The Acosta survey lists the top eco-friendly products bought in the last year as:

  • Fresh produce (60%)
  • Cleaning products (44%)
  • Eggs (43%)

This is in line with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 2019 prediction that consumers will spend up to $150 billion on sustainable goods by the end of this year — that would make up 25% of all consumer products sold.

In turn, consumers want retailers to do their part to step up and show they’re committed to the environment and serving communities. Only about 1 in 3 Acosta respondents say they’ve noticed regular sustainability efforts by retailers, and 65% want to see companies investing more in being eco-friendly.

If you’re undergoing a lifestyle adjustment to be more sustainable in your personal life, you might see the cost of your expenses rising, as sustainable goods can be more expensive. You can start by looking for low-cost ways to keep your expenses down. For instance, consider skipping meat a few meals a week and load up on grains, rice and beans instead. While buying organic, locally sourced produce might cost a lot, you may save more by not eating as much meat.

To reduce your carbon footprint, you could shop secondhand or reduce your car usage if you drive a gas guzzler. Beyond that, consider committing to shopping at a few of your favorite sustainability-driven retailers during sales and use rewards from cashback credit cards to stack the savings.

Methodology: Acosta surveyed 1,085 primary grocery shoppers online from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, 2021, using its proprietary shopper community.