(Photo: Flickr user USDA)

(Photo: Flickr user USDA)

As political pundits hit the airwaves to tout their latest and greatest campaign hits, it’s inevitable that Americans will hear the term “values” bandied about incessantly. Politics aside, however, this v-card is weaving a deeper influence over the way Americans think, feel, and yes, purchase.

Forty-two percent of Americans say they would pay more for products from companies with a solid track record of positive social and environmental impact, a 2014 Nielsen study showed. And 90% of consumers worldwide would switch to a brand if it supported a cause, states the 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR study. Segment consumers out a bit, and according to a recent study conducted by Forbes and Elite Daily, for example, 75% of millennials surveyed said it’s important to them that companies not just make a profit, but give back to society. They would rather make their purchases from those brands that support local communities.

With a rise in consumers letting their hearts guide their wallets, the CPG industry is in a race to align themselves with the values that mean the most to discerning purchasers. The most sought after of these in recent years would be organic food and beverages; one can’t walk a grocery aisle without spying at least a portion of it dedicated to a host of natural and organic products, and by 2020, these products are estimated to account for 14% of total food purchases. Other beliefs near and dear to consumers’ hearts and wallets include fair trade practices, sustainable packaging and locally sourced products, among others. And the more consumers purchase from a place of value, the more the industry responds.

Grocery retailer Safeway, for one, became the first to stock fair-trade certified seafood. Yogurt purveyors Stonyfield Farm switched over to eco-friendly packaging for its four-packs of yogurts. And SABMiller teamed up with Ugandan farmers to contract production of ingredients needed for Eagle brand beer from Niles Breweries Uganda.

Values differ among consumers, but there are ways CPG companies can tap into this purchasing power:

  • Be in the know. Meaning, know thy consumer. And then know some more. Like-value-minded people naturally gravitate toward each other. Understand the nuances of the different segments of the consumers, and companies will be better able to speak their language. CPG will need to dig deeper into collected data to find out what their consumers most want to see, whether that’s better packaging, improved service to local or global communities, or better supplier-manufacturer relationships.
  • Be aware. In today’s era of social media and constant web presence, CPG companies need to have a clear vision of how they are viewed from an outsider’s perspective. Recognize what changes need to be made internally to be better positioned externally.
  • Be transparent. The 2015 Cone study says that 52 percent of consumers don’t believe companies act responsibly—until they hear otherwise. CPG companies must be open, honest, and sincere in their efforts, and show they’re putting values where the dollars are.

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