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Monitor: Brands need simple messaging to sell eco-social claims

New Hope Network consumer research suggests consumers value eco-social claims—but those values falter in the face of complex issues.

Natural Products Industry Health Monitor, June 9, 2022
As the world emerges, haltingly from COVID-19, new challenges emerge. In this feature, New Hope Network provides an ongoing update on those challenges and the opportunities they hold. Look for the Industry Health Monitor every other Friday to learn the major news that is affecting the natural products market immediately and the less obvious insights that could dictate where the market may struggle or thrive in the months to come.

Every time they shop, conscious consumers  face a maze of decisions built around values that might start with taste and price but quickly diverge into nutrition and health concerns before straying into animal welfare, fair trade and an array of eco-social claims. Now, consumer research from the New Hope Network’s NEXT Data & Insights team suggests that many consumers are getting lost in that maze, with the importance placed on claims dropping as the complexity behind the claims rises.

When asked about animal welfare—seemingly the most simple of the eco-social claims in the survey—78% of respondents call it very or somewhat important. The vastly more complicated climate and carbon footprint claims come in behind that, with 68%. Fair trade/worker welfare falls in the middle with 72% of respondents citing it as very or somewhat important.


While one could argue that some of these claims stray into political values, the complexity equation in far-from-political matters provides a counterpoint. The ingredients list edging the supplement/nutrition facts panels in the percentage of consumers calling it “very important” shows us how crucial simplicity can be.

Simplicity is clearly the takeaway for brands. Many decry the deployment of buzz words, but the fact that agricultural sustainability, an issue of great complexity, equals fair trade/worker welfare in importance is likely due to the word “sustainability.” We’ve seen research questioning how important seals and certifications can be, but they are still solid shorthand for consumers.

It’s not that the simple message can’t be backed up with more complex storytelling—that’s what QR codes and websites are for—but it could easily be that many consumers caught in that decision point maze need on-the-label storytelling that’s understandable at a glance. It’s not clear if anyone has perfected the short-and-simple pitch for eco-social claims, but research makes it clear how important finding that pitch will be.

Even when the issues are complex, the message has to be simple.


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