- A survey conducted by Crestline Custom Promotional Products showed 68.3% of American consumers want to support companies that promote similar social, political and environmental values as them. Only 9.4% of respondents were uninterested in corporate ethics.
- The survey showed age has no bearing on consumers' responses, while gender, geography, political party identification and education did have an impact.
- When it comes to product claims, American consumers prioritized non-toxic product claims above all others with an average rating of 4.09 out of 5. Organic was the least important label claim, rated 2.96 out of 5.
With Americans turning into conscious consumers, the phrase "doing well by doing good" has become a rallying cry for companies looking to stand out from the pack. In recent years, simple steps such as highlighting organic and cruelty-free on labels have transformed into consumers asking for a full-blown analysis of a company’s treatment of its workers and the social causes that upper management supports. At the same time, shoppers still consider how a product was made and what type of ingredients were used.
The result, according to this new survey, is decision fatigue. About 33.8% agree that paying attention to all these purchase qualifications takes a toll. Still, 81.8% of respondents admitted they would want to know if a company that they purchased products from was doing something controversial.
When talking about the products themselves, it might be surprising to see that non-GMO and organic labels are lowest in terms of importance for shoppers when considering whether to buy a product. After years of demanding change and companies, many consumers seem to consider that passe. Or it could be because that consideration has become a ubiquitous expectation. After all, organic foods are in 82.3% of the country's 117 million households.
Non-GMO, however, is another story. There are mixed opinions with scientists and the federal government saying products with GMOs are not harmful while some critics express skepticism over the safety of consuming foods containing these ingredients and question how growing them impacts the environment.
In fact, a petition from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation asserts such labeling claims, especially the Non-GMO Project's butterfly logo, imply products certified as non-GMO are healthier than those containing GMO ingredients. It argues that such claims are "false and misleading" and constitute misbranding under the law. While the petition is still under review, it demonstrates that opinions about this label are beginning to change as environmental concerns and plant-based and lab-created meat start to take precedence in the consumer consciousness.
The other interesting finding from this study is the stark division between political party lines. The line between red and blue has started to signify more than who people supports in politics — including how concerned a consumer is about what the products they buy represent. "Made in America" claims were the most important for conservatives while "cruelty-free" or "not tested on animals" claims resonated most with liberals. This trend translated to the political leanings of cities as well.
So while it may not be a wise course of action for companies to abandon their current labeling plans, it would be sensible for companies to listen to what their consumers find most important. An understanding of a brand's core customers and better tailoring the message toward them will be essential as consumers continue to purchase products that they can identify with rather than simply buying them for the sole purchase of nourishment.