CHICAGO: Some 45% of consumers who regularly buy food and drink brands boasting strong sustainability credentials believe such products are superior in quality, according to Mintel.

Concerns about the environment and human welfare were cited as the main reason for purchasing goods making sustainable claims by 42% of respondents, the same total as food safety worries.

These are findings from the Mintel Global New Products Database, which has tracked over 13,000 new and sustainable food and drink offerings since 2005.

Although 84% of shoppers stated they regularly bought green or sustainable food and drink, there was considerable uncertainty regarding what these terms mean.

David Browne, senior analyst at Mintel, commented: "Packaging claims such as 'recyclable' or 'eco-' or 'environmentally friendly' are fairly well known to consumers, but sustainable product claims such as 'solar/wind energy usage' or 'Fair Trade' have yet to enter the mainstream consumer consciousness."

Among those surveyed, 40% were not aware of solar/wind energy claims and the 37% who recognised this term had never acquired items carrying such a positioning.

Browne observed: "They may have heard of the terms, but they'd be hard-pressed to define them."

This also applied to brands promising reduced carbon footprint/emissions and Fair Trade, which 32% and 34% of the sample respectively were unfamiliar with.

In spite of this, demand for sustainable food and drink continues to grow, with customers apparently putting their own interpretation on the various available alternatives.

The focus of sustainable messages "vary in importance across different demographics," Browne added. "What's most important to young adults may not be the primary deciding factor for affluent consumers."  

"Marketers should consider this in their claims closely; noting that health, welfare, and safety are important for nearly all consumers."

The topic of sustainability is also analysed by Alastair Morton and Claire Jackson in the upcoming November 2010 issue of Admap.

In their paper, the authors recommend that advertisers employ "branded flourishing" - making their sustainability messages aspirational and fruitful in order to appeal to consumers.

Data Sourced from Mintel