The Four Personas of Sustainability-minded Consumers

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Our new research will help you understand your own sustainability persona and enable you to better target key consumer segments

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Sustainability represents a billion-dollar opportunity and a surefire way for food and beverages brands to differentiate themselves and their offering in a crowded marketplace. With 49% of global consumers prioritizing sustainability in their food and beverage purchases, sustainability consumption is no longer just a trend—it’s a long-term shift already influencing all aspects of the industry.

But consumer opinions about sustainability continue to evolve, making it essential that we keep researching the latest considerations and changing sentiments. To ensure we use current data to help our customers, our research and insights function recently undertook a massive study that explored the sustainability opinions and associations of around 14,500 consumers from 18 countries. In the resulting report, “Sustainability in Motion 2021”, our team catalogued the various levels of sustainability adoption amongst consumers, naming four consumer segments—aka, sustainability archetypes or personas—each of which occupies a separate space along a sustainability adoption curve.

What’s your sustainability archetype? Take our survey to find out, and help us continue to track how the sustainability movement is changing.

Have you already taken our sustainability survey? If so, locate your persona on the sustainability adoption curve below, which represents the 49% of consumers we identified as being sustainability-minded. (The other 51% of consumers do not prioritise sustainability in their purchases today.)

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Sustainability is a journey, unique to each consumer. These sustainability-minded consumers fall under one of four consumer archetypes that lie at different points of the sustainability adoptive curve.

Personas along the sustainability adoption curve

Our research also found that the very definition of sustainability changes by consumer segment, with a growing portion of the population believing that human and animal welfare and personal health (intrinsic motivations) fall under the sustainability umbrella alongside environmental concerns (extrinsic motivations). 

Outlined below are the defining characteristics for each persona. Note: Consumers do not necessarily move along the sustainability adoption curve in a linear manner. A person may start as Inactive then jump to Frontrunner, for example.

Inactives make up 6% of sustainability-minded consumers

Don’t let the term “Inactive” fool you: Sustainability is important to this segment, it’s just not a key driver for purchases. Inactives believe the government and industry are responsible for sustainability. They also view sustainability as mostly extrinsic, such as natural resource preservation, recycling and animal and community welfare. Inactives are found in every demographic segment; to them, price and lack of intentionality are key barriers to acting more sustainably. Inactives are a window into the 51% of global consumers do not prioritize sustainability today, but may be influenced in the future.

Passives account for 24% of sustainability-minded consumers

Passives are typically mid-life or older. These are Gen Xers and Boomers who prioritize sustainability, but are disenchanted by the lack of resources, products and planning. Much like Inactives, Passives view sustainability mostly as something that applies to the world around them, and therefore their ideas of sustainability tend to focus on environment protection, animal welfare, food waste and other related topics. For this group, price continues to be a key barrier to acting more sustainably.

Followers make up 23% of sustainability-minded consumers

The youth of the nation, Millennials and Gen Z, tend to fall into the Follower category with sustainability. These younger people are purpose-driven and for them, sustainability is a key priority. However, their view of sustainability is in a state of transition, moving from something that is mostly environmentally focused to a concept that views sustainability as something that can have a more personal effect on oneself. Followers often find themselves lacking in time and resources and are most likely to switch to brands that are more sustainable and align with brands that have an inspiring vision and purpose.

Frontrunners account for 46% of sustainability-minded consumers

The torchbearers and most mature group with regards to sustainability, Frontrunners have recognized and embraced the environmental, social and individual impact of sustainability. They are most likely to make sacrifices related to price, convenience and brand affinity in order to support sustainability. Frontrunners are aspirational and set the sustainability bar for their family, friends, colleagues and the wider community. The largest group of sustainability-minded consumers, there are Frontrunners across all consumer generations, although older Millennials are more likely to be frontrunners. This segment drives the industry to make changes that align with their expectations of sustainability.

To learn more about creating food and beverage products that appeal to a broader set of personas, download our “Sustainability in Motion 2021” report. To find out how our Customer Sustainability Archetype Targeting Survey can help you better focus your product launches, contact us.

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