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.
The natural products industry’s mission to create both healthier people and a healthier planet has never been more urgent following news that the Supreme Court has hamstrung the Environmental Protection Agency in its efforts to control CO2 emissions, but make no mistake: Guiding consumers to the better choices has never been more challenging.
A combination of disinformation and information overload leaves consumers lacking knowledge or simply confused about the steps natural products companies are taking for the environment. New Hope Network consumer research conducted in May proves how little consumers understand about what the industry is trying to do. Only 19% of consumers surveyed said they had heard of regenerative agriculture and understand what it means. Just 27% know what carbon offsetting is. Hidden in that survey, however, are signs that the task of educating and informing consumers is far from hopeless.
In short, the industry has done it before.
More than half, 54%, of consumers in the survey said they have heard of “non-GMO” and know what it means. A full 88% have at least heard of it. The percentage of people who had heard of “organic” and know what it is 69%, a full 94% have at least heard of it.
Neither organic nor non-GMO are simple concepts. Each required a learning curve for consumers, and that learning curve was made less steep through the efforts of the natural products industry.
Consumers, especially younger consumers, are motivated to learn. In different consumer research conducted last month, clear majorities called environmental claims somewhat or very important in their purchase decisions. In research deployed last year, 58% of consumers identified as “progressive” said they will pay more for products from companies with responsible environmental practices. With the Supreme Court ruling that the EPA can’t regulate CO2, inspiring consumers to vote with their pocketbooks has never been more important and with food and consumer packaged goods such a large piece of the climate solutions puzzle few industries have greater potential to lead on the issue.
It is not a matter of “if you lead them, they will follow,” but consumers, probably more in the natural channel than in conventional, are ready to be led.
It’s been done before, as the survey results on “organic” and “non-GMO” prove.
It can be done again.