Consumers and Sustainability: Over-the-Counter Medications and Supplements

Published: September 1, 2009 - 34 Pages

Table of Contents

  • Methodology
    • A Joint Publication of The Hartman Group and Packaged Facts
    • The Hartman Group Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
    • About The Hartman Group, Inc.
    • About Packaged Facts
  • Sustainability & the American Consumer
    • Establishing a Definition of Sustainability
    • Sustainability Concerns and Purchasing Decisions
    • A Consumer-based Model of Responsibility
    • Experiential Triggers
    • Informational Triggers
    • The World of Sustainability: Core to Periphery
    • Motivations and Barriers to Purchase
      • Convenience
      • Price
      • Expert Opinion
      • Experience
      • Knowledge
        • Table Motivations and Barriers for Sustainable Purchases
  • OTC Medicines & Supplements and the Sustainability Consumer
    • The OTC Market and the Zones of Sustainability
    • Personal Benefit Zone of Sustainability
    • Environmental Zone of Sustainability
      • Safety and Waste Disposal
      • Consumer and Employee Safety
      • Humane Treatment of Animals
    • Motivations and Pathway(s) for Adoption
    • Attributes of Sustainable OTC Medications and Supplements
      • Natural and Safe Are the Foremost Attributes of Sustainable OTC Meds and Supplements
    • Hierarchy of Specific Attributes
    • Relevant OTC Medication and Supplement Certification(s)
      • Federal Drug Administration
      • Cruelty Free
      • Organic
    • OTC Medication and Supplement Packaging
      • Table Packaging Do's and Don'ts for Sustainable OTC Meds and Supplements
    • Purchase Criteria
      • Table Purchase Criteria for Sustainable OTC Meds and Supplements
    • Quantitative Findings on Sustainable OTC Meds & Supplements
      • Table General OTC Health Care Products Category and Corresponding Sustainable Versions General Product Category Corresponding Sustainable Product Categories
  • Summary and Key Insights
    • Issues and Concerns Surrounding OTC Meds and Supplements
    • Tenets for Package Communications
  • Market Update
    • Responses to Economic Downturn
      • Table Recent Trends in Sustainability Psychographics: Opinions
      • Table Recent Trends in Sustainability Psychographics: Behaviors
    • Sustainable Products Move Into Mainstream
      • Table Percent of Adults Agreeing With Selected Psychographic Statements About the Environment, 2009 (U.S. adults)
      • Table Percent of OTC Medicine and Supplement Products Marketed With Natural/Organic or Negative Content Claims, 2005 vs. 2009(P)


This report forms part of a series jointly published by The Hartman Group and Packaged Facts on Consumers and Sustainability. This four-part series covers in separate reports the markets for foods and beverages, personal care products, 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

Increased media coverage regarding tainted medications due to human error and globalized production has generated rising consumer awareness about the lifecycle and potential impacts of over-the-counter (OTC) medications and supplements. Our research finds that consumers consider social and environmental zones to be salient to their evaluation and purchase of sustainable versions of OTC medications and supplements. Although OTC meds and supplements are most common in pill form, consumers consider many of the same sustainability issues and personal concerns to be relevant for mass-produced topical ointments.

Read an excerpt from this report below.

Series 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 a proprietary online poll conducted in February 2009 and on Experian Simmons surveys fielded from November 2008 to 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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