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What Is The Profile Of The Ethical Food Consumer?

The food industry has established sustainability as a key decision maker. However, consumers doubt whether their buying choices truly make a difference in the environment. GCL looks at the profile of the ethical food consumer.

The ethical food market is defined as products that have organic, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance with MSC certification. In the last five years, strong sales growth for ethical and food drink has increased by 43% creating an £8.2 billion market. However, in the next five years, this growth is expected to plateau with a 17.3% growth and predicted to reach £9.6 billion in 2023.

Plastic Vs Environment

Consumers now become increasingly aware of how much plastic they waste with some adopting for plastic-free lifestyles. In fact, 83% of UK adults say that retailers should do more to help reduce packaging waste.

One way in which the government is aiding this “war” is through the prospect of taxing plastic packaging with less than 30% of recycled content to be launched in April 2022. Additionally, the Scottish government has worked on a deposit-return scheme where consumers are able to return bottles and be rewarded in a sum of monetary value. This is due to be launched in 2023 nationwide with retailers such as Tesco, Morrisons and Iceland trialling the concept in stores now.

Food Waste

One main barrier of food waste is education around “use by” and “best before” creating the government to review current fresh produce date labelling.

As the average consumer sends roughly 280kg of food per year, there is pressure for manufacturers and processors to advocate their practices to consumers and educate on how to eliminate waste.

However, this may lead manufacturers to be tightly squeezed by the two contrasts of legislation and could potentially struggle to cope with government pressures.


The Ethical Consumer

83% of UK adults have brought food and drink with some sort of ethical certification with consumers wanting to buy multiple accreditations within one product.

The most popular accreditations to be purchased are free range (66%), Fairtrade (53%), red tractor (49%) and organic (30%).  This highlights that animal welfare and environmental concerns are the key reasons for buying ethically certified food and drink. Moreover, there is an association that buying certified foods are healthier creating reasoning why consumers are likely to buy organic food/drink.

However, consumers feel that they are unable to justify the price of such products with 41% say that they are too expensive. Eating sustainably is deemed to be harder when money is tight meaning that the future state of the economy and a high disposable income is vital for successful sales growth for the category.

Despite the multiple challenges to buying ethical food, companies must continue to strive NPD within this sector. 48% of UK adults say they are loyal to companies/brands whose ethics align with their own. This may be because over half of adults say that buying ethical food and drink makes them feel good which will boost consumer’s confidence that they are genuinely making a difference.

Companies need to educate and be honest to their customers about the effects and consequences of buying ethical produce.

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May 3, 2019