“Harsh Reality Check” as Consumers Face Concerns of Extreme Weather

According to the 2022 Mintel Consulting Sustainability Barometer, the number of global consumers who now cite climate change as a top three environmental concern has risen.

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All around the world, people are worried. What used to be a fringe concern is now a top global issue, with fears over climate change escalating. According to the 2022 Mintel Consulting Sustainability Barometer, the number of global consumers who now cite climate change as a top three environmental concern has risen from an average of 39% in 2021 to 46% in 2022.

Also causing alarm:

  • Concern over water shortages climbed from 27% in 2021 to 31% in 2022
  • Fears over food shortages are up from 17% in 2021 to 23% in 2022.

The experts at Mintel point to extreme weather events and the conflict in Ukraine as worrying realities that have people paying more attention to environmental issues.

“The fact that concerns around climate change and water and food shortages are being prioritized ahead of previous preoccupations with waste and plastic pollution points towards the emergence of a more informed and hardened global consumer,” notes Richard Cope, Senior Trends Consultant, Mintel Consulting, in a press release. “Soaring temperatures, extreme weather events, and disruptions to food, water, and energy supply chains have given consumers a harsh reality check, hurting their health and wallets, and activating them in the process. In the meantime, escalating activism, regulatory reaction, and the sheer scale of the challenges ahead and solutions required have educated global consumers enough to sniff out greenwashing campaigns and there’s no going back from that. This means companies will increasingly need to assert—and clearly communicate—the truly impactful actions they are taking to reduce emissions, rather than simply offset them or dip their toes into populist ‘plastic free’ campaigns. This growing awareness around resource inputs and emission and waste outputs will also spell the end for ‘environmentally friendly’ as a credible marketing term.”

Cope added that Mintel research shows that the majority of consumers continue to see recycling and mitigating waste as important. Top global sustainable behaviors are:

  • Recycling packaging (59% in 2022 v 60% in 2021)
  • Meal planning to avoid food waste (53% in 2022 v 52% in 2021)
  • Reducing clothes buying (50% in 2022 v 52% in 2021).

“This tells us that simple, frugal behaviors are the most popular among consumers,” Cope says, “which underlines the fact that brands’ sustainability initiatives need to deliver on value and convenience.”

Importantly, the data shows that action is essential. Mintel reports that global consumers’ optimism has stalled. Today, 55% of consumers believe that if we act now, we still have time to save the planet, compared to 54% who said the same last year.

Mintel predicts that, in 2023, conservation of resources (food, water, money) will become even more of a priority, and consumers will continue their current shift toward favoring companies that are making a positive difference. That’s what we are seeing in the natural space—turn to page 22 of this issue to learn more about consumer attitudes, and to find out about the actions both large and small that natural products retailers are taking to be the change.

Retailers are also driving change by seeking out partners that are truly committed to people and the planet. Just how are those throughout the natural products supply chain making a difference? We asked companies to share their sustainability stories, and the response was overwhelming. Go to www.WholeFoodsMagazine.com for expanded coverage of our “Beyond Sustainability” feature. Hear from brands, ingredients suppliers, and other industry partners on the steps they have implemented and their goals for the future.

We’d love to share your sustainability story, too. Email us at editor@wfcinc.com to take part in future coverage.

Fostering Stress Resilience

All of life’s stressors (concerns over the climate among them) have consumers reaching for natural assists to help us feel more resilient and better able to face the challenges. From September 20-22, WholeFoods Magazine and Industry Transparency Center will present the next Naturally Informed virtual event: Stress and Mental Wellness: Mastering the Market.

We will explore the latest research on mood modifiers targeting areas like the endocannabinoid system, the gut-brain axis, and more. World-class experts share valuable insights so you and your entire team can benefit from free educational and training sessions on consumer trends, and strategies for developing and positioning products.

Of course we all need to take care of ourselves, too, so we will be covering strategies for avoiding burnout and fostering a supportive workplace culture. Scan the code or visit www.NaturallyInformed.net to register to attend the virtual event live or to view the sessions on demand at your convenience.

And there’s more to know! Save the date for the final event of Naturally Informed event 2022. Active Aging: Mastering the Market will be held November 16 to 18.