Consumers and Sustainability: Food and Beverage, Personal Care, Household Cleaners, and OTC Medications and Supplements

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Published Sep 1, 2009 | 86 Pages | Pub ID: LA2108853

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This report (also available in a four-part series format) was jointly published by The Hartman Group and Packaged Facts. The CPG markets covered are food and beverage, personal care, household cleaners, and OTC medications and supplements.

Sustainability means different things to different people. Asked to identify what the term means to them, consumers most frequently respond “the ability to last over time” (76%) and “the ability to support oneself.” Sustainability is also strongly associated with environmental concerns, whereby consumers are being challenged to develop and express an “eco-consciousness” in their daily habits and purchases. Thus, nearly half of consumers associate sustainability with conserving natural resources and with recycling.

But using “eco-conscious” or “green” as synonymous with sustainability unduly limits the term. “Green” falls short as a description for the variety of social, economic and environmental issues that real-world individuals believe are important to sustaining themselves, their communities, and society at large. Adoption of sustainable products mirrors the health and wellness progression that The Hartman Group has previously reported, in which consumers first consider the impacts of things in the body, followed by on the body, and finally around the body.

As consumers become more educated about the environmental, social, and economic implications of their shopping habits, their health and wellness motivations dovetail with societal concerns, such that four zones of sustainability become relevant to purchasing choices:

  • The Personal Benefit Zone
  • The Environmental Zone
  • The Social Zone
  • The Economic Zone

All of these zones apply the food and beverage market, which is central to consumer perceptions of sustainability. In fact, many of the attributes that generally describe quality eating experiences, particularly freshness, also resonate as sustainable in the food and beverage category.

Within the personal care market, “natural” remains a meaningful reference point for a variety of personal care products, even if the term has lost significance in other packaged good categories. Moreover, attributes such as “chemical free” and “not tested on animals” are important considerations for purchasers of conventional and sustainable personal care products alike.

Household cleaning products with a sustainable side have begun to enter the American mainstream. Formerly, the act of cleaning was a form of “germ warfare,” and entailed a combative relationship between consumers and their environment. Recently, however, more consumers talk about the idea of working with nature, not against it, to naturally restore balance to their home environment.

Increased media coverage of tainted products due to human error and globalized production has increased consumer awareness of the potential negative impacts of over-the-counter (OTC) medications and supplements, whether in pill or other forms. Thus, about half of the over-the-counter medicine and supplement products in the U.S. market now feature some type of sustainability claim, whether based on manufacturing practices, product formulation, or packaging.

Read an excerpt from this report below.

Report Methodology

This report series was jointly produced by The Hartman Group and Packaged Facts, and is based on The Hartman Group’s 2009 multi-category study, Sustainability: The Rise of Consumer Responsibility. In addition, Packaged Facts provides an update of consumer attitudes and spending based on various Packaged Facts market-specific studies, a Packaged Facts February 2009 online consumer poll, and Experian Simmons national consumer surveys fielded November 2008 through June 2009.

The Hartman Group Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

This report draws primarily on an online survey of 1,856 U.S. adults conducted in September 2008 by The Hartman Group to understand consumer attitudes and behaviors related to sustainability. The sample was drawn from a panel of adult U.S. consumers with Internet access, and was designed to provide good representation of the U.S. population according to geographic area, age, gender, race and income. The Hartman Group also conducted qualitative research on sustainability in three markets (Seattle, Dallas, and Columbus) during August 2008, using consumer ethnography with fifty consumers as the cornerstone of qualitative research. Ethnographic interviews included one-on-one conversations at an individual’s home or at a specific retail setting, as well as group interviews also at consumers’ homes. These engagements garnered more than 100 hours of in-depth, revelatory consumer discussion.


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        •   Motivations and Barriers for Sustainable Purchases

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      •   Purchase Criteria for Sustainable Foods and Beverages

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      •   Dos and Don'ts for Sustainable Food and Beverage Packaging

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      •   General Food and Beverage Categories and Corresponding Sustainable Versions
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      •   Chemicals Consumers Avoid in Sustainable Personal Care Products

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      •   Packaging Do's and Don'ts for Sustainable Personal Care Products

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      •   Purchase Criteria for Sustainable Personal Care Products
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      •   General Personal Care Product Categories and Corresponding Sustainable Versions
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      •   Packaging Do's and Don'ts for Sustainable Household Cleaners

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      •   Purchase Criteria for Sustainable Household Cleaners

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      •   General Household Cleaner Categories and Corresponding Sustainable Versions
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      •   Packaging Do's and Don'ts for Sustainable OTC Meds and Supplements

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      •   Purchase Criteria for Sustainable OTC Meds and Supplements

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      •   General OTC Health Care Products Category and Corresponding Sustainable Versions
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      •   Recent Trends in Sustainability Psychographics: Opinions, Winter 2007/08 Through Spring 2009
      •   Recent Trends in Sustainability Psychographics: Behaviors, Winter 2007/08 Through Spring 2009
      •   Percent of Adults Agreeing With Selected Psychographic Statements About the Environment, Spring 2009 (U.S. adults)
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      •   Patterns for Agreement With Statement, "When Shopping for Food, I Especially Look for Organic or Natural Foods," Winter 2007/08 Through Spring 2009
      •   Percent Agreeing with Selected Psychographic Statements on Natural or Organic Foods, February 2009 (U.S. adults)

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      •   Projected U.S. Retail Dollar Sales of Natural and Organic Foods and Beverages, 2009-2013
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        •   Percent Agreeing with Selected Psychographic Statements on Natural/Organic Health and Beauty Care Products, February 2009 (U.S. adults)
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      •   Projected U.S. Retail Dollar Sales of Natural Personal Care Products, 2008-2014 (dollars in millions)
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