- The environment is increasingly playing a role in purchasing decisions, with 42% of consumers stating they always or nearly always consider it, consulting firm Kearney found in its annual Earth Day Survey. This figure, the highest on record, was an 18 percentage point increase from the prior year.
- The report also said the cost of more environmentally friendly products is becoming less of a barrier. When asked what prevents them from buying products with sustainability claims, 46% of consumers said the cost was a primary factor, a decline of four percentage points from 2022 and seven percentage points from 2019.
- Kearney said “climavorism” — which it defines as “actively making food choices based on climate impacts with the intent to benefit the planet” — is less sensitive to price. The survey of 1,000 consumers found cost is “decreasing as a barrier to purchasing products claiming environmental benefits,” despite persistent inflation across food categories.
Kearney’s survey indicates while consumers face food inflation, they still feel compelled to factor in sustainability when purchasing food.
Grocery prices rose to a four-decade high last spring, due largely to increases in baked goods and eggs. The overall food-at-home index increased 8.4% during the past year, according to the most recent Consumer Price Index. But in recent months food inflation has been declining, falling 0.3% in March.
The consumers surveyed by Kearney overwhelmingly placed the responsibility for shifting toward more environmentally friendly food choices onto food and beverage companies. Only 26% of respondents said lawmakers and regulators should be most responsible.
Among the 42% of consumers who said food producers should bear the responsibility, 54% said food manufacturers should play the largest role, compared to 25% for grocery stores and retailers.
CPG giants such as PepsiCo have embraced regenerative agriculture, while companies like Anheuser-Busch and Conagra Brands have debuted products they claim offset the carbon created when the product was made.
But some critics believe they are not doing enough. In an interview with Food Dive earlier this year, Food & Water Watch’s policy director Jim Walsh said the industry’s current efforts will not drive meaningful change, as many still use harmful pesticides and fertilizers.
The report’s authors said as food and beverage companies shift their supply chains toward more climate-friendly operations, there are opportunities for them to increase their market share and differentiate themselves.
“Food manufacturers that are already pursuing strategies to reduce emissions associated with their activities to meet scope 3 [emissions] targets can use this to find opportunities to serve the growing climavore market, also reducing the chances of having to comply with further, perhaps more draconian, regulation and legislation,” the Kearney report said.
Scope 3 emissions are generally defined as indirect emissions from across a company’s supply and value chain. They make up nearly 87% of a food and beverage maker’s total carbon footprint.
Other surveys during this period of food inflation have shown contracting perspectives on purchasing behavior. A survey from the International Food Information Council in May 2022 found price is a much more significant factor than sustainability when it comes to influencing a shopper’s buying decisions by a margin of 68% to 39%.