Winning with Eco-Actives is essential for future brand growth

Winning with Eco-Actives is essential for future brand growth

4 minute read

A new Who Cares, Who Does? study by Kantar demonstrates green credentials are both beneficial to business and the planet. Natalie Babbage, Global LinkQ Director, Kantar, explains how brands can appeal to the 'Eco-Actives'. 

Article details

  • Author:Natalie Babbage
    Global LinkQ Director, Kantar
17 November 2021

For the second year in a row, the number of households considered the most environmentally conscious rose globally. We call this group the Eco-Actives, and they now represent 22% of consumers, up from 16% in 2019. We forecast that this group will make up 56% of the global population by 2030.  

They are worth $446 billion to the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry, with that spend increasing by $70 billion compared with last year. In our annual study, Who Cares, Who Does, now in its third edition, Kantar has identified and explored this group.

The study shows that Eco-Actives avoid buying products with disposable packaging, preferring to bring their own drinks containers for on the go, and opt for refill packs. But their concern for the environment is not just limited to reducing plastic waste. We also see Eco-Actives are more likely to shop close to home and choose hand-made alternatives to shop-bought products.

Brands need to consider how they can appeal to Eco-Actives as they are both sizeable and growing, meaning they will have significant impact on the future performance of your category or brand. The study is backed up by Kantar and GfK's FMCG purchase panels, meaning consumers’ claimed behaviours can be directly linked to their actual purchasing, revealing risks to brands who are not changing their products to meet the needs of this growing segment. These shoppers are more likely than average to say they have stopped buying goods or services due to their negative environmental impact (83% compared with 67% overall). We also see lower spending on soft drinks, fresh meat, bleach, and moist wipes than the average shopper suggesting these categories could lose value as the Eco-Actives grow. The plus side of this is that providing a more sustainable offering that appeals to this group can deliver real sales growth. In the UK, for example, the top 20 brands most popular with the Eco-Actives are growing at double the rate of the overall FMCG market. 

Mind the Value-Action Gap

The extent of the Value-Action gap - where good intentions do not match actual behaviour – is a key finding of the study. 65% of all shoppers try to buy environmentally friendly packaging, yet only 29% do this regularly. This gap is smaller for the Eco-Actives, where 85% try to buy and 73% regularly do. The value of this gap across all consumers is $806bn to the FMCG industry, representing a massive opportunity for brands and retailers. 

The most significant gap is with our Eco-Considerer group, those shoppers who are taking some actions to reduce their waste, but not regularly. 70% of Eco-Considerers try to buy products with environmentally friendly packaging, but only 27% are regularly doing it. So what is getting in the way of action? The most frequent complaint was that products are hard to find or expensive, with more than half of our respondents claiming this. The reality is that other priorities such as price and convenience get in the way. Busy lives play a big part in our choices; 33% try to buy sustainable products but get distracted by other things in the supermarket. 

How can brands win by helping consumers make more sustainable choices?

Go beyond packaging: Consumers are looking to make sustainable choices on plastic and packaging, but still find it confusing to understand easily what can be recycled and the best choice overall. New cross-brand initiatives to develop a green score or single labelling scheme mean this is likely to be more prominent in their future decision-making.

Make visible changes: Only 41% of our shoppers can name a brand that is doing an excellent job on the environment, meaning there is ample opportunity for brands to step up communication and become part of the solution. 

Consider value proposition: Price is a barrier for many consumers and is a key reason why good intentions are not translating to spending in-store. The reality is that most people are not willing to pay more for better packaging or an ingredient change alone. Eco-Actives are often willing to pay for brands with a green image and a superior product, but brands need to offer value to drive change. Refills, for example, could provide price savings as a format. However, they are often more expensive due to the premium nature of the brands and stores offering this option.