Research: Actually, Consumers Do Buy Sustainable Products

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By Tensie Whelan and Randi Kronthal-Sacco

via Harvard Business Review

This article debunks the commonly cited claim that although consumers will say they intend to purchase sustainable products, they don’t actually purchase them when given the opportunity. A recent study by NYU Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business revealed exactly the opposite: consumers do buy sustainable products, and they buy a lot of them.

There is extensive data to back the article’s conclusion: researchers looked at over 40% of CPG dollar sales between 2013 and 2018 (which included over 36 categories and more than 71,000 SKUs). They found that of the CPG growth from 2013 to 2018, 50% came from sustainably-marketed products. Furthermore, products with a sustainability claim on the packaging accounted for nearly $114B in sales in 2018 — an increase of 29% since 2013. “Most important,” say the article’s authors, “products marketed as sustainable grew 5.6 times faster than those that were not. In more than 90% of the CPG categories, sustainability-marketed products grew faster than their conventional counterparts.”

On a large scale, we see that legacy companies that are willing to pivot to more sustainable offerings, like PepsiCo and Unilever, have great success in doing so. Unilever’s “sustainable living” brands are delivering 70% of the conglomerate’s turnover growth. So, despite the long-held misconception about consumers’ sustainable purchasing habits, these findings reveal that consumers really are voting with their dollars when it comes to sustainability. The article concludes, “The future of CPG… is sustainable.”

See the Harvard Business Review article

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Moonshot Collaborative is a consumer research firm that provides unparalleled access to thousands of plant-based and sustainability-minded shoppers to help you understand their purchase decisions and how you can appeal to them more effectively.