According to Mintel research, many consumers purchase "green" or "sustainable" products based on their perceptions of superior quality, rather than an understanding of the labels.

Mintel has tracked more than 13,000 new sustainable food and drink products since 2005, and while 84% of consumers say they regularly buy green or sustainable food or drink, some are unaware of what that actually means. "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," said David Browne, a senior analyst at Mintel. "They may have heard of the terms, but they'd be hard-pressed to define them."

Advertisement

According to the research, 45% of those surveyed who purchase sustainable food and drink do so because of a perceived belief in superior quality. Forty-three percent say they buy those products because they're concerned about environmentalism/human welfare and 42% cite a concern for food safety. "These reasons vary in importance across different demographics," said Browne. "Marketers should consider this in their claims closely; noting that health, welfare and safety are important to nearly all consumers."