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Vitafoods Europe 2023

Using sustainability certifications to entice the ‘conscious consumer’

Article-Using sustainability certifications to entice the ‘conscious consumer’

© AdobeStock/JackF Using sustainability certifications to entice the ‘conscious consumer’
Today’s conscious consumers want products that benefit not only them but the planet – and third-party certifications offer a “huge opportunity” for brands to communicate their sustainability credentials to supplement shoppers, say industry analysts.

Brandon Casteel, vice-president of partnerships at SPINS, highlighted the value of sustainability certifications, which the US-based wellness data company has a specific focus on tracking.

It partners with the entities behind marks such as Certified Organic, Fair Trade Certified, B Corp Certification, Upcycled Certified, and Regenerative Organic Certified, among others.

SPINS’ extensive datasets allow companies to dig into the specifics of how – and which – labels help to drive sales.

“We work with all those certification entitiesthey release a new set of UPCs [universal product codes], we tag that in our data, and then the retailers are smarter about what products on their shelves have what certifications,” he said. “Are they selling at a premium? Are they selling at higher velocities?”

Sustainability certifications weigh extraordinarily heavily’ in buying decisions

Shoppers want products that are both good for their health and that of the planet, animals, and society in general, Casteel said.

He told an audience at this year’s Vitafoods Europe event: “We've now done enough data aggregation across consumer populations to know that there's this big push towards the value-oriented shopper, where just a natural product or an organic product or a better-for-you product is not enough for them any more.”

What makes third-party certifications so important, he said, is that they weigh extraordinarily heavily in consumers’ decision-making processes. Two-thirds of US shoppers say they will pay more for a sustainable product than for a less sustainable competitive offering, according to SPINS data; that figure rises to four in five 18- to 34-year-olds.

What’s more, three-quarters of those consumers say they use labels and third-party certifications to confirm sustainability credentials.

“What I see here is just opportunityfor manufacturers, for ingredient suppliers, for packaging companies, for marketing organisations,said Casteel. “You've [got] 78% of consumers saying, I want to buy this stuff [but] I don't know how to identify it’ – that's a huge opportunity for all of us in the industry.”

Younger ‘conscious consumers’ continue to drive market

In 2021, SPINS data showed that across all generational groups, 69% of US shoppers said they believed that sustainability was important. That's now jumped up eight points in just one year,” said Casteel.

“This conscious consumption that is so big right now, the consumer is the influencer in the market they're connected, they're more informed than ever before,” he explained. “And as more and more e-commerce infrastructures and grocery delivery infrastructures become more customised, this will become a much larger theme.

Younger generations, in particular, prioritise products that generate reduced waste or have a minimised carbon footprint, he added.

“Younger shoppers that are driving the demand it's not going away. It's just getting more and more pervasive,” he said.

The specifics of conscious consumption

Which aspects of sustainable consumption are valued most by the public? Looking at SPINS datasets, ingredient sourcing is one of the most important things consumers consider, but they also look at worker and animal welfare, Casteel said.

As the number of certifications has grown beyond the few recognised 20 years ago to encompass newer labels, such as Regenerative Organic Certified and Upcycled Certified, there are a growing number of concerns for consumers to choose between.

As such, there is greater variation as to which – and in which category – different certifications resonate.

Non-GMO Project Verified items have the highest [percentages] in yoghurt, meal replacement protein powders, milk, and functional beverages, if we're just looking at different parts of the store,” said Casteel.

But when you look at where the growth is coming from, it's different certifications on each so Regenerative Organic Certified is resonating at the highest growth percentage for yoghurt, but Fairtrade is for protein powders. For milk, it's also non-GMO, but for functional beverages, it's Upcycled Certified.

Reaping the rewards of regenerative certification

Casteel highlighted Regenerative Organic Certified, which requires manufacturers to meet very specific standards with regards to the type of farming that is being done to bring their products to market.

© AdobeStock/lightpoetUsing sustainability certifications to entice the ‘conscious consumer’

Looking at organic products with a natural or health and wellness positioning, there is a 69% price premium for products that are certified as regenerative organic, he said.

Regenerative Organic Certified is across the entire store already not just dairy but frozen plant-based meats, snacks, supplements, even baby and toddler foods all these companies doing very, very well in the data that we're tracking,” he added.

Casteel used the subcategory of shelf-stable culinary oil as an example: there is a 33% price increase for regenerative organic shelf-stable culinary oil. However, one of the velocity metrics that SPINS tracks – average weekly US dollars per store, per item selling – shows that it's still at a 24% greater contribution, so the velocities are staying there, too.

This is a really, really good sign for this certification, he said.

If you're looking down and saying not only is that a higher premium, but the velocities are comparable – that's a good thing for just society in general, if we have more and more of these types of items [that] resonate with consumers and more of them are being purchased,” he explained.