Sustainability claims 'resonates across all generations,' leads market growth, Circana data shows

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

© Ariel Skelley / Getty Images
© Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

Related tags Sustainability Circana

Consumers of all ages are buying sustainably marketed products across categories, despite their price premium and ongoing inflationary pressures, Joan Driggs, VP of content and thought leadership at Circana, shared during a recent webinar.

In its on-going sustainability research, Circana surveyed more than 1,100 in September 2023 about how important sustainability is to them, including regenerative agriculture, fair-trade, water conservation, and other claims. Overall, "90% of respondents agree that these factors were important to them personally," and only 4% said it was less important compared to a year ago, Diggs said.  

Older demographics were more likely to say that name-brand product manufacturers practice sustainability, with 87% of retirees, 86% of younger boomers, and 85% of older boomers agreeing with that sentiment. Similarly, 79% of retirees and 76% of boomers said the sustainability actions they personally take have a global impact, higher than their younger counterparts.

"Millennials are definitely key to the future, but sustainability as we now know resonates across all generations," Driggs said. About three-quarters of respondents "believe that they have a role to play in the global impact of sustainability. ... More telling is that 82% believe it's important that name-brand product manufacturers practice sustainability. So, consumers agree they have a role to play, but they expect brands to step up in a big way."

Do sustainable products have a say-do gap problem?

Though a majority of consumers agree that sustainable products are important, only half of the consumers surveyed report that they buy the sustainable option compared to the non-sustainable product, Driggs said.

However, consumers self-reported behaviors often differ from their actual behaviors (the say, do gap). Circana partnered with NYU Stern Center to look at point-of-sale data for 36 product categories to better understand how consumers purchase these products, Randi Kronthal-Sacco, senior scholar of marketing and corporate outreach for NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business shared during the webinar.

Despite high prices and the premium associated with these products, “sustainability has been resilient against these inflationary increases,” and consumers are increasingly opting for sustainable products across food and beverage categories, which is increasing demand for these products.

"For the last five years, sustainably marketed products have been growing two times faster than conventionally marketed products.... What I find really encouraging is the five-year CAGR for sustainably marketed products year-on-year growth is 9.3%. The market has grown about 5.68%, and conventionally marketed products have underperformed ... at 4.98%."

Additionally, sustainable products are driving growth within a number of categories and have gained sizeable market share, Kronthal-Sacco shared. Yogurt, milk, soup, bottled juices, coffee, and natural cheese were the food and beverage categories studied that achieve 20% or more market share, according to the Circana and NYU Stern research.

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