​​​​Finding Their Voice: Consumers Speak Out About Environmental Change

-​January 18, 2020-

Consumer concerns about sustainability and environmental preservation are red-hot topics around the globe. With more channels of communication today than ever before, coupled with a growing sense of responsibility and duty, customers are driven to speak out and act on the issues that matter to them. The brands that will remain relevant are the ones listening — and making a positive, productive social impact.

​New research confirms consumer apprehension about the environment and their dedication to acting better by buying better — for their own health and for the health of the planet. To further understand the consumer voice, Tetra Pak commissioned market research firm Ipsos to conduct an integrated global study of thousands of consumers in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. The research culminated in a robust report, "Tetra Pak Index 2019: The Convergence of Health & Environment."

From air pollution and global warming to plastic in the oceans, consumers provided a directive for brands on the issues they need to address to protect the planet — and their businesses.

Environment Is King

While consumers are worried about the economy, migration, and globalization, their top concern is the environment. 

Two out of three people surveyed for the index said the world is heading for a global disaster unless we make changes to our daily habits, and 86% believe the situation is only going to get worse. While this viewpoint might seem pessimistic, there is a silver lining: The majority of consumers believe that they have a responsibility and duty to "do the right thing."

​And they're not sitting still.

Many consumers are taking action by participating in community movements that focus on improving the environment, sharing environmental-related facts and opinions on social media, and seeking out new experiences that have little impact on the environment.

Picking Different Products​

Consumers are also enacting change by leveraging their purchasing power for environmentally sound food and beverage products — even if the cost is higher. Compared to two years ago when 15% of consumers made this choice, the index revealed that today that figure has jumped to 21%.

​In addition, 47% of people surveyed believe the purchases they make for their health impact the environment, and they're evolving their lifestyles for immediate and longer-term results. For example, 37% said they believe environmentally sound products offer additional health benefits compared to standard products. And approximately 68% surveyed said they're changing their focus to "preserve the environment for future generations."

Ingredients and package labeling are the factors consumers use to differentiate between items they consider good for them and the environment and those they don't. The index found that three in five consumers associate "natural" with being "healthy," but the descriptor most linked with products that are both good for health and the environment is "organic." Consumers also consult package labels before buying, with 22% checking out environmental information.

Now Starring: The Food and Beverage Industry

Food and beverage brands are in a coveted position to drive the convergence of health and the environment, and the industry is leading the way. This is because food and beverage brands can take environmental impact to a personal level.

To that point, consumers say consuming more environmentally sound food and beverages has a strong connection to making both health and environmental changes. And since consumers are focused on buying these products — in particular those that are natural and organic — brands can step up to deliver on the demand.

Brands can also buoy their sustainability efforts with packaging choice. Consumers consider recyclable packaging the number one characteristic of an environmentally sound product and the "most appealing descriptor" of the packaging for a food and drink product. The index found that 20% of consumers plan to buy more sustainable packaging in the coming year.

Consumers are also vocal when it comes to their intolerance for plastic. Plastic has become such an anathema that avoiding it is the number two trait of an environmentally sound person, according to 58% of survey respondents. In the next 12 months, one in three surveyed said they plan to buy and use less plastic, a resolution that's only superseded by "exercise more" and "eat more healthily."​

Companies can align with consumer demand by both prioritizing sustainable packaging composed of responsibly sourced, recyclable, and renewable materials and producing nutritious, high-quality products that feed the world. As consumers take greater responsibility for their physical, mental, and environmental health, those serving them have to do the same. Change happens incrementally, and brands must deliver on their environmental responsibilities to drive true progress.

Download the "Tetra Pak Index 2019: The Convergence of Health & Environment" to learn more about consumer sentiment