After the environment, health is the biggest global concern for consumers (at 46%). These two most pressing worries have historically been treated as separate areas. But as environmental issues become more evident in daily life, consumer concerns about the direct impact on health are growing.
In fact, 59% of all consumers already think that their health and well-being are strongly affected by environmental problems. And when we look at the most worrying environmental and health concerns, we see the same factors rating highly on both: air and ocean pollution, microplastics and poor drinking water.
Consumers also see a correlation between health and the environment in the products they buy. Nearly half (47%) think that the purchase choices they make for their health will have an impact on the environment. And some see a link the other way too: 37% of consumers who plan to buy more environmentally sound products say that it will have a positive impact on their physical health, and 18% believe that it will also improve their mental health.
The more concerned about the environment consumers become, the more health-conscious they become. For those most concerned about the environment, a full two-thirds think that their health and well-being are strongly affected by environmental issues (7% above the average).
This group also has a stronger belief that physical and mental health are major concerns for society, and they are substantially more likely to be willing to sacrifice convenience and to pay more for healthy products. Moreover, in our interviews, many also report personal experiences of health issues being caused by environmental issues and/or modern lifestyles.
While the intersection of personal and planet health is on the rise globally, the level of maturity varies between countries. However, as our Cultural Insight Network reports show, a driving factor for positive change almost everywhere is youth.
Young people want and expect to be healthier and live longer than their parents. Moreover, their use of social media, their own experience of climate change and the global visibility of young activists all urge them to act more responsibly towards the environment.
In our consumer interviews, behaviours and habits related to food – sourcing, production, preparation and packaging, and consumption – are often cited as having a negative impact on both the environment and health. Cited examples of health problems include children’s allergies, ADD and obesity, which some believe to be caused by environmental factors such as genetically modified foods and pesticides, excess sugar, artificial additives and so on.
Health is mainly what changes consumption habits, driving consumers to choose products that are organic, locally produced and less processed, with less sugar and shorter ingredient lists.
In the USA and UK particularly, some consumers see meat and dairy as having a negative impact on the environment, and their consumption has therefore decreased, with soy most frequently cited as the substitute (although children largely still drink dairy). Very few mention oats as being better for the environment than soy, suggesting that the relative environmental impact of plant-based milks is not widely understood.
However, substituting dairy seems to be a luxury for Western adults. It is not seen as a concern for Brazilian, Indonesian and Saudi consumers, for example, where dairy is regarded as more of a necessity for a healthy diet.
There is a strong drive in the global dairy industry towards more premium, value-added products. Yoghurt is a good example. It is seeing excellent growth in many markets, notably China, and consequently brands are striving to introduce broader ranges, including varieties that meet the growing demand for more natural, additive-free “clean label” products. However, this can be a technical challenge.
Yoghurt is a special and quite sensitive product. While it can be very natural, consisting of only starter bacterial culture added to milk, over the years brands have added a variety of ingredients to control its stability, viscosity, texture, flavour and mouthfeel, and so forth.
To create clean label yoghurt, every ingredient’s properties and effects, and every processing step, must be balanced in order to get a consistent result that meets consumer needs. In general, the more sensitive and controlled the processing, the fewer additives are required, and the more natural the final product will be. For guidance on how to achieve this, Tetra Pak has produced a white paper called Introducing Clean Label Yoghurt: Designing Alternatives to Additives.
Read more and sign-up to download white paper: Introducing clean label yoghurt
Read the next section: Individual responsibility is rising