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Caring consumers look for ethical certification

British consumers are increasingly eating with a conscience as the latest research from Mintel reveals that last year the nation spent £8.2bn on ethical food and drink. Over the past five years, sales of ethical produce – especially products certified organic, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) – have shot up by 43% from £5.7bn in 2013.

Mintel forecasts sales will increase a further 4% to reach £8.6bn this year and by 17% to reach £9.6bn by 2023. Today, 83% of UK adults say they have bought food/drink with ethical certification with those most likely to buy ethically-certified food/drink aged over 55 (87%).

But while ethical food and drink is growing in popularity, Mintel reveals that cost is a significant barrier, as seven in ten UK adults say that eating sustainably/ethically is harder when money is tight. Confusion is having an impact too, as 60% of UK adults say it’s difficult to understand the differences between the various sustainable/ethical schemes.

Mintel Research Analyst Alice Baker says: “Ethical food and drink has enjoyed strong sales growth in recent years, but price poses a significant barrier to greater uptake. This makes it imperative for companies to demonstrate to consumers how they can shop ethically without breaking the bank and how ethical products can – in some cases – even be the financially savvy option.”

British consumers are particularly keen to engage in the war on plastics. Nearly seven in 10 (67%) of UK adults have made efforts to reduce the amount of plastic packaging they bought in the year to February 2019. Six in ten say they would be happy to use their own containers. But while consumers are keen to do their part to reduce waste, 83% believe that retailers should do more to help reduce packaging waste.

Around half (48%) of UK adults say they are loyal to companies/brands whose ethics align with their own, rising to 56% of under-25s. In fact, a third (33%) of UK adults say they have stopped buying products from companies that have acted unethically, rising to 43% among under-25s.

While 49% of UK adults believe that their food and drink choices make a difference to the environment, slightly more (51%) disagree or are unsure whether or not this is true. This highlights the importance of reassuring consumers that their shopping actions have an impact.

Environmental sustainability appears to chime among under-35s, who show higher purchasing of food/drink with related certifications. A third (32%) of 16-34s buy Rainforest Alliance products, compared to an overall average of 25% of Brits, while 30% buy products with the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label on-pack, compared to an average of 20%.

The full report is available to purchase here.

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