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Consumer Research

 

The Conscientious Consumer

The Conscientious Consumer

Latest OMD Sense findings
 
Background
 
Modern ethical consumption started with hippies in 1960s Northern America and Western Europe, as a form of protesting against their socio-political environment.  Through the intervening decades, different varieties of conscientious consumer have moved in and out of the spotlight – vegetarians, for example.
 
In contrast, the modern conscientious consumer may be an enthusiastic carnivore, but is likely to be evangelical about the environment, food miles, recycling and so on.  And it’s a trend that no longer defines a counterculture, but is entering the mainstream globally.
 
Ethical consumption is simple to define.  It generally means avoiding causing harm to or exploitation of humans, animals or the natural environment.  But if you think of most products that you buy regularly, it becomes clear that this is a big ask. As a result, self-denial is a large part of being a consumer with a conscience.
 
For the modern Conscientious Consumer the growing list of concerns includes global warming, fair trade, animal testing, human rights abuses, globalisation and species extinction, amongst others.
 
This means traditional consumer preferences and ideas of value – flavour, effectiveness, speediness, affordability – are compromised or superseded by the demands of that conscience.
 
That conscience can command you to try reducing your environmental by using solar panels, or make you buy expensive fair trade alternatives to support a living wage for Third World farmers
 
The Influential Minority
 
So how big is this trend? Well we know 5% of adults agreeing with all of the below TGI statements:

It's Worth Paying More For Organic Food

Only Buy Products From Company With Good Ethics

Prepared To Pay More/Env.Friendly Products

I Buy Fair Trade Products When Available

I Would Never Buy Food That Has Been Genetically Modified

In all, ethical products now account for 5 per cent of all sales according to the Co-Operative Bank’s Ethical Consumerism Report (2005). The increasing impact of this leading minority can be seen in a range of brands, categories and sectors.

Food and Drink
 
The most visible impact is in food and drink.  Fairtrade brands now account for 14% of the total UK roast and ground coffee market.
 
The British drink 1.7 million cups of Fair trade tea, coffee and cocoa each day and eat 1.5 million Fair trade bananas a week.  Café Direct is now estimated to have 3% of UK sales of roast and ground coffee.
 
Most impressive are the increases. Non-food organic sales have risen in the UK by almost 30 per cent in the last five years and are now worth approximately £334 million .
 
The organic produce sector increased in size to £1.6 billion last year – the bulk was bought in supermarkets,  accounting for three quarters of organic sales. Major UK supermarket chain Tesco announced that its organic fruit and vegetable sales reached £28 million last year, up 100 per cent from the previous year.
 
The total market for meat free foods in 2004 was estimated at £626 million, a 38 per cent rise on the 1999 level.
 
Even the biggest brands are preparing for this trend to dominate and define individual markets.
 
In 2005 a spokesperson for Kraft General Foods predicted that within 10 years, 60-80% of the market for coffee will be made up of products with independent certification qualifying them as ethical.
 
Financial services
 
EIRIS found that money invested in ethical funds had increased by 34 per cent a year since 1989, which is twice the growth rate of the industry as a whole.
 
Travel
 
According to Mintel ‘hard’ eco tourism trips accounts for 1% of the total outgoing holiday market, equating to c450,000 trips per year, but VISIT (the Voluntary Initiative for Sustainability in Tourism) predicts this will have grown to 2.5m trips annually by 2010.
 
Summary
 
Far from being a simple media phenomenon or a blip in consumer culture, everything points to the Conscientious Consumer growing even more influential in the coming years.

It is highly likely that more people will become consistent ethical consumers, and Conscientious Consumers may even come to outnumber their less rigorous brethren.

Comments/Feedback? Please contact: Michael.Tully@omduk.com

AJR
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