Plant-based foods lead ethical purchase decisions

Many consumers are concerned about the environmental and ethical issues impacting on today’s world. A new report from Innova Market Insights analyses how these issues rank in importance for people.

The research shows that, when asked about 12 key ethical concerns, an average of 57% said that they “care a lot”. Air pollution, animal cruelty and ocean pollution were the three most important issues, with response rates of more than 60%.

High levels of awareness and concern are slowly translating into consumer action at the supermarket checkout. Although half of consumers say that they are prepared to pay more for products devoted to solving these issues, an average of only 9% name environmental, social or ethical aspects as something they consider important when buying groceries. This is a 7% increase from last year.

Certain areas of the food and drinks market are more heavily impacted by ethics than others, with plant based foods an obvious example.

“A total of 22% of meat substitutes shoppers name environmental or ethical issues as a clear reason for purchase,” says Lu Ann Williams, Head of Innovation at Innova Market Insights.

“This makes ethics the third most important consideration in this rapidly expanding market, after health and taste, and the response rate is more than four times the average for all product categories.”

Launches of new food and beverage products with ethical claims have been increasing steadily in recent years and this is certainly seen as a growing niche by innovators. However, looking ahead, COVID-19 could well have an impact on ethical shopping in the coming years.

Significant job losses related to the pandemic will leave many consumers in financial difficulty and, as a result, they may be unable to afford to shop ethically.

On the flip side, a stronger community spirit has developed in many populations during the crisis and those who emerge economically unscathed may actually increase their ethical spending, particularly where local causes are concerned.