“Conscious consumers are taking center stage and … they are not only focused on the environment, but increasingly we are seeing sensitivity towards animal welfare,” Alison Angus, head of lifestyles at Euromonitor International, said recently during the consumer and market research firm’s webinar on what to expect in the coming year.
She explained that the demand for animal-friendly products is going beyond niche vegan consumers to a much broader flexitarian group, which is allowing consumers to choose different levels of commitment to animal welfare ranging from not consuming animal products at all to only using products from animals that have lived humanely.
Animal welfare also increasingly is considered “cool” and “healthy,” two qualities that will likely further expand the value’s appeal beyond traditional conscious consumers to more mainstream shoppers overtime.
Conscious consumers’ focus on animal welfare led to a more than 10% increase in sales of meat substitutes in 2018 compared to 2017, bringing the total up to about $18 billion in retail sales. During the same period sales of dairy milk alternatives climbed about 9% to $17 billion, products making vegan claims saw sales increase slightly more than 5% to about $9 billion, while retail sales for products making grass fed/pasture raised or free range claims climbed about 4% and 5% respectively, according to Euromonitor data.
At the same time, animal-derived ingredients, such as collagen and lanolin, are losing their popularity, Euromonitor reports.
Driving desire for transparency
Conscious consumers also tend to be “relentless in their demand for complete transparency,” and as such businesses “absolutely must take steps to address their concerns” by shining a light on how their products are sourced, made and marketed and the full impact of each step on the environment and society at large, Angus said.
She recognized that while many industries are making stride in their ability to track and trace where each ingredient or products is sourced, this is a tall order for other industries that have more complex supply chains or have not had the same level of regulatory pressure to push them forward.
Nonetheless, she said, now is the time for slow-starters to pick up their feet because at least for now consumers are willing to pay a premium price for products that fit with their more mindful and conscious values “as long as it is reasonable and fair.”
However, in the future, this higher bar around transparency, sustainability and animal welfare likely will become the new floor, at which point those companies that have not made an effort will no longer be attractive – even as a more affordable option.
With that in mind, Angus noted that products that can check more than one box for consumers, such as animal welfare and sustainability, will start to pull ahead. For example, she pointed to the recent approval by FDA of duckweed as a source for protein as a potential future star. The ingredient not only is plant-based, but it is highly sustainable in that it can be harvested daily, 98% of the water used in its production can be recycled and it appeals to consumers’ desire for clean labels.
Moving beyond food
So far, conscious consumerism has focus on the food, beverage and beauty industries, but Angus predicts it will quickly tip into other categories.
“For instance,” she said, “in home furnishings we are seeing consumers say no to leather, fur and feathers, and indeed are choosing much more natural ingredients and products.”