Conscious Consumerism

February 12, 2021
Consumer Clean Innovation Natural
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In this day and age, consumer values should be, well…valued. And with recent social and political upheaval, environmental concerns and a national health crisis, today’s consumers are developing awareness of how they impact their environment, society and economy through their purchase decisions. They’re more interested in how their food and beverage goes from creation to shelf to table, and while they search to support the good through mindful purchases, taste is still their number one purchasing factor. We’re taking a look at “conscious consumerism” in the food and beverage space and seeing where you can find a win-win opportunity for your brand. Let’s take a look.

Making Conscious Purchases

Conscious consumerism relates to how a product’s social, environmental, economic or ethical impacts affect consumers’ purchasing decisions. Though the concept has been more relevant as of late, research shows that consumer concerns such as sustainability, environmental and ethical issues will stay true over time.

Research shows Millennials and Gen Z are buying sustainable products at higher rates than other generations. And while consumers are interested and open to making more value-based decisions, taste and flavor are key to providing a satisfying product.
“Millennials and Generation Z consumers tend to rank sustainability as a higher priority compared to older generations, according to Seifer, and researchfrom IRI and the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business found Millennials were most likely to purchase sustainability-marketed CPG products -- even during the coronavirus pandemic.” – Smart Brief

Top Environmental and Ethical Concerns:

  • Air Pollution

  • Animal Cruelty

  • Ocean Pollution

Source: Innova Market Insights

Taste is Still #1: A recent International Taste Institute survey showed that 86% of those surveyed stated taste as their primary reason for buying a product.

Flavors For Good

Over the past 3 years, 186,398 products with Ethical & Environmental claims have been introduced globally while 24,364 products have been introduced in North America alone. This includes those launched with new packaging. Let’s take a look at the top claims, categories and flavors.

Top Claims - Global

Claim and claim combinations used most in the last 3 months

  • Environmentally Friendly Package – 67.78%

  • Ethical-Recycling – 54.63%

  • Ethical -Sustainable (Habitat/Resources) – 41.58%

  • No Additives/Preservatives – 19.76%

Top Flavors - Global

With product claims of Ethical & Environmental

  • Chocolate

  • Strawberry

  • Orange/Sweet Orange

  • Vanilla/Vanilla Bourbon/Vanilla Madagascar

  • Hazelnut

Top Claims - North America

Claim and claim combinations used most in the last 3 months

  • Environmentally Friendly Package – 69.94%

  • Ethical - Recycling – 60.31%

  • Kosher – 40.73%

  • Environmentally Friendly Product – 33.66%

Top Flavors - North America

With product claims of Ethical & Environmental  (NA)

  • Chocolate

  • Vanilla/Vanilla Bourbon/Vanilla Madagascar

  • Strawberry

  • Salt (sea)/Fleur de Sel

  • Orange/Sweet Orange

"Consumers will spend up to $150 billion on sustainable products by 2021. However, they don’t value all attributes considered “sustainable” equally, and different attributes resonate best within different product categories. Brands should take care to focus on products with sustainability claims that build credibility and trust—or they could end up alienating their customers." - Nielsen

Coming Together

With so much going on in the world, many consumers look to unite for the greater good and to connect as communities, especially in a time where many feel disconnected. Culturally or socially conscious consumers in particular search for products that will impact concerns like human exploitation, fair wages and labor, hunger and similar issues.

42% of U.S. consumers strongly agree that it's worth making individual sacrifices to protect the health of the greater community.

46% of U.S. consumers feel giving back/helping others is one of the top five values most Americans live their lives by.

Source: Mintel

Products of Note:

Blueberry Almond Kind Breakfast Bar: This product is made with nuts, real fruit and whole grains and is a great source of fiber. The manufacturer claims to choose economically sustainable and socially impactful ingredients with a goal to give back to the community and make the world kinder.

63% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Jcoco Arabica Espresso in 60% Dark Chocolate bears the Rainforest Alliance Certified and Women Owned logos. The manufacture claims that with each purchase, one healthy serving of food is given to someone in need to eliminate hunger.

29% of consumers in our panel responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Sweetcorn and Carrot Organic Turtle Puffs are made with whole grain ingredients and free from flavors. The manufacturer is a Certified B Corporation and with every purchase, they donate to community projects to improve kids' health and well-being.

37% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Environmental Efforts

One of the main categories in this space – eco-friendly and sustainable products that promote a positive change for our environment. From mitigating climate change and deforestation to restoring our rivers and oceans, brands have hopped on board, marketing these issues for change. Through their products, consumers can make their positive contribution while indulging in great tasting products.

 73% of global consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment. – Nielsen 2019
“Generally, those who are aware of the global issues (e.g. human exploitation, animal cruelty, deforestation and plastic waste) put some attention and care on these issues and are willing to pay more for F&B products that are devoted to solving these global issues,” – Innova Market Insights

Products of Note:

Alter Eco Crisp Mint Organic Chocolate: Alter Eco’s organic chocolate is said to have a refreshing hint of peppermint and a touch of Madagascar bourbon vanilla bean. The product is sourced sustainably in Ecuador by a community who is replanting the forest canopy.

37% of consumers would likely or definitely buy this product.

Apple Cider Vinegar Kettle Brand Potato Chips are free from GMO and gluten. In 2019 the manufacturer launched packaging that used 43% less packaging and keeps over 2 million lb of plastic out of landfills.

31% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Coors Seltzer Variety Pack is described as a seltzer with a mission that comes in flavors including Black-Cherry, Lemon, Lime Mango, and Grapefruit. By partnering with Change the Course, the manufacturer is helping to restore millions of gallons of water back to America’s rivers.

21% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product

Animal Friendly

Consumers aren’t only worried about our environment; they value the welfare of animals within in. Reducing meat consumption has been a major movement for those looking to make more animal-friendly purchasing decisions. Those who do eat meat can commit to animal wellbeing by searching for grass-fed, free from antibiotic and hormone options or researching how the animals were raised.

And though it has been talked about time and time again, interest in plant-based diets isn’t going anywhere just yet. With growing popularity in animal-friendly products, even more innovative products and flavors have been released. Plus, meatless products also often have a less negative impact on the environment by reducing carbon emissions, waste by-products and more -- a win-win for consumers.

Interested in hearing more about plant-based consumer trends? See our in-depth research here. 
 “A total of 22% of meat substitutes shoppers name environmental or ethical issues as a clear reason for purchase…This makes ethics the third most important consideration in this rapidly expanding market, after health and taste, and the response rate is more than four times the average for all product categories.” – Innova Market Insights

“The top reason that consumers choose any protein — plant or animal-based — is taste, according to a quarter of participants.” – Food Dive

Products of Note:

Grass Run Farms 80% Lean 20% Fat Natural Ground Beef Patties are described as 100% grass fed beef sourced from cattle which are free to roam and graze serene pastures.

40% of consumers likely or definitely would buy this product

Applegate Well Carved Organic Mediterranean Style Meatballs are made with turkey, lentils, feta and spinach. The line is created with humanely raised meat sourced from family farms.

41% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Stouffer’s Meatless Lasagna is made with Sweet Earth Awesome Grounds plant-based pea protein and herb seasoned tomato sauce with real part-skim mozzarella cheese.

40% of consumers likely or definitely would buy this product.

Make it a Movement

Consumers today find brand values important and they respect brands who are giving back to the community, supporting ethical movements and confronting issues like racial bias, income inequality and political instability. Restaurants and CPG companies can find opportunity in innovating, supporting movements and creating tasty offerings for their consumers.
“A study by EY Beacon Institute and Harvard Business School found that 85% of ‘purpose-led’ companies increased revenue while almost half of the non-purpose-led companies had revenue declines.” – Forbes

Products of Note

Climate Friendly Dining

Panera Bread became the first national restaurant chain to label menu items as climate friendly. According to CNBC, “Panera worked with the environmental think tank (World Resources Institute) to calculate the carbon footprint of the menu, with 55% of its entrees earning the badge. Menu items with the distinction include its Broccoli Cheddar soup and Mediterranean Bowl.”

Panera has also pledged to reduce their carbon emissions and implement more plant-based offerings into the menu.

Justice Remix’d

Ben & Jerry’s brought back their limited-edition ice cream to fight systemic racism and promote the youth to vote for justice. The ice cream features cinnamon and chocolate ice creams, gobs of cinnamon bun dough, and fudge brownies. The product was launched for a short time in 2019 and brought back in 2020.

As part of their larger get-out-the-vote campaign, for a limited time, Ben & Jerry's also offered free waffle cones to people who pledged to vote for justice.


The Takeaways

Many consumers today are doing more than simply picking products off the shelf. They’re learning more about how their products are created, the brand values of those who create them and how it impacts our society and environment. And with 73% of global consumers saying they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment alone, catering to these values can lead to opportunity for product developers. While consumer values are important, taste will inevitably keep them coming back for more. In fact, an International Taste Institute survey showed that 86% of those surveyed stated taste as their primary reason for buying a product. Let’s see how FONA can help your brand.

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What does true partnership look like? You deserve a flavor partner ready to turn these trends into the tangible.

Let FONA’s market insight and research experts get to work for you. Translate these trends into bold new ideas for your brand. Increase market share and get to your “what’s next.” Our technical flavor and product development experts are also at your service to help meet the labeling and flavor profile needs for your products to capitalize on this consumer trend. Let’s mesh the complexities of flavor with your brand development, technical requirements and regulatory needs to deliver a complete taste solution.

From concept to manufacturing, we’re here for you — every step of the way. Contact our sales service department at 630.578.8600 to request a flavor sample or contact us at

Sources in full report