Sustainable food brands offer £837bn opportunity

By Matt Atherton

- Last updated on GMT

One third of shoppers choose brands they believe are good for the environment (Flickr/Tom)
One third of shoppers choose brands they believe are good for the environment (Flickr/Tom)

Related tags Sustainability

Food and drink manufacturers could benefit from a £837bn opportunity by making their brands’ sustainability credentials clearer, Unilever revealed, after researching global consumers’ buying habits.

One third of shoppers chose brands they believed were doing good for the environment or society, according to the research. About 21% of consumers would choose a brand if their positive impact on society or the environment was clearer on its packaging, Unilever found.

A brand’s environmental or social sustainability played a larger role in developing countries compared with developed countries. In the UK and US, 53% and 78% of shoppers respectively said they felt better when buying products that were sustainably produced. Those numbers rose to 88% in India, and 85% in Brazil.

‘An imperative’

Unilever chief marketing and communications officer Keith Weed said: “This research confirms that sustainability isn’t a nice-to-have for businesses. In fact, it has become an imperative.

“To succeed globally, and especially in emerging economies across Asia, Africa and Latin America, brands should go beyond traditional focus areas like product performance and affordability. Instead, they must act quickly to prove their social and environmental credentials and show consumers they can be trusted with the future of the planet and communities, as well as their own bottom lines.”

Living in developing countries meant shoppers were exposed to the impact of unsustainable business practices first-hand, Unilever said. That – as well as greater encouragement from friends and family to buy sustainable products – was why shoppers felt better about buying sustainably in developing countries, the manufacturer claimed.

Growing faster than the rest of the business

Unilever brands that “integrated sustainability into both their purpose and products”​ – including Dove, Ben & Jerry’s and Hellmann’s – delivered almost half of the manufacturer’s total growth in 2015, it claimed. These brands are also growing 30% faster than the rest of the business, Unilever claimed.

Meanwhile, Wyke Farms md Richard Clothier said its global customers demanded high environmental standards​, especially in emerging markets.

Unilever brand sustainability report – at a glance

  • 33% of shoppers buy brands they believe are doing good for the environment or society
  • 21% would choose a brand if its sustainability credentials were clearer on packaging
  • £837bn opportunity for brands making sustainability credentials clearer

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