New research from IRI has analysed the behaviour of shoppers over the past 12 months, revealing a lot about their purchasing patterns in relation to sustainability.

Daniel Bone, Insights Director for IRI Asia Pacific, said the research has delivered some interesting results, that show sustainability has continued to grow in importance for customers throughout the pandemic.

“The results pose challenges and opportunities for manufacturers and retailers to meet the fast evolving needs of shoppers. While COVID has captured the attention of many, sustainability has become a critical issue for Australian shoppers,” said Bone.

“Our research shows that Australian shoppers do care about sustainability and they are actively making purchasing decisions based on their concerns – 55 percent of those surveyed try to buy environmentally friendly products.”

The sustainability trend was found in all types of shoppers from all demographics and life stages. One of the key areas that was raised throughout all segments was packaging, as this is one of the biggest things associated with sustainability.

“Packaging stands out because it is often a shopper’s first and last sustainability cue,” Bone explained.

“Sixty-eight percent of shoppers connect packaging with sustainability. Interestingly, they also prioritise waste reduction. When we asked shoppers to pick the top three things they most closely associate with sustainability, 53 percent said their number one issue is reducing by-product/waste, followed by minimising environmental impact at 47 percent and thirdly, a commitment to using renewable resources at 38 percent.”

In addition to showing that shoppers let sustainability dictate what products they buy, the research illustrates how sustainability also impacts decisions about where shoppers choose to buy. Bone said that shoppers that “proactively seek environmentally friendly products” are more likely to be conscious of the sustainability credentials of retailers, and therefore choose to shop at certain outlets over others.

“This demonstrates that manufacturers and retailers not only need to understand the complexities and characteristics of a sustainability mindset, they must also be able to respond through action in a meaningful way to attract a greater share of shoppers’ spend,” said Bone.

“Nearly 50 percent of shoppers state that it is quite important to them that the outlet they shop with offers a range of sustainable products.”

Analysing this research, Bone and IRI have identified some key areas of opportunity for retailers when it comes to sustainability. These areas are called the ‘seven Rs of sustainability’ and Bone said: “they have been developed by IRI through an extensive process of analysis, consultation and market testing, to provide businesses with a clear road map on how to meet the needs of shoppers with a sustainability mindset.”  

The Rs are:

  • Recycle: Aim for 100 per cent recyclable packaging and in-store POS materials, and divert and repurpose waste.
  • Reduce: Provide practical steps for shoppers to reduce their carbon footprint. Incorporate less carbon intensive materials/processes (including packaging).
  • Remove: Embrace digital substitutes and remove material collateral. Eradicate non-essential packaging, especially plastics, and explore refill options. Lead the way with packaging-free items.
  • Relationships: Share sustainability learnings and pursue brand/community collaborations and industry initiatives that foster sustainable practice
  • Range: Make sustainable choices easier through a transparent and curated range, and boost approachability through accessible prices.
  • Reassure: Share stories about your sustainable efforts and develop a measure of basket/brand sustainability, to inspire and assure customers.
  • Representation: Celebrate Australia’s diverse industries by enabling marginalised members of society, championing better standards across the industry including supply chains and lead through action and advocacy.

Bone said: “The seven Rs of sustainability are designed to assist retailers and brands to address the key areas of opportunity and focus in the research, development, delivery and marketing of products across the food and grocery sector to optimise shopper engagement.

 “At IRI, we see there being a need for manufacturers and food and grocery outlets to support the fundamental aims, ethics and beliefs of shoppers with new ideas, creative options and innovative solutions to help them in fulfilling the needs of their growing sustainability mindset.”

The full exploration of this research on sustainability is covered in an IRI Asia Pacific webinar, available via IRI.

Brydie Allen

Brydie Allen is the Editor of National Liquor News. She has been with Food and Beverage Media since 2019, when she joined the company as a journalist across National Liquor News, Bars & Clubs, The...

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