The growth of ethical shopping

Date : 20 April 2010

- Defining ethical shopping
- Importance of ethical issues
- Sales of ethical food and drink
- The future of ethical shopping

Defining ethical shopping

Shoppers identify five key themes when they define what ethical shopping means to them. These are: higher animal welfare, fairly traded, environmentally friendly, organically produced and British/locally sourced.

Many of the people buying these types of products claim to be motivated, at least in part, by issues of conscience or morality. There are, however, other motivations at play. These include food safety, product quality, taste perceptions, healthy eating and support for the economy.

What does ethical shopping mean to shoppers?

What does ethical shopping mean to shoppers?

Source: IGD ShopperVista

Importance of ethical issues

IGD’s ShopperVista continuously monitors the influence of different factors on grocery shopping decisions. As illustrated in the chart below, many ethical factors have a significant impact on the products that shoppers buy.

Ethical factors are important to grocery shoppers

% extremely/very important
Ethical factors are important to grocery shoppers

Source: IGD ShopperVista, base: all main shoppers, Apr’12

Animal welfare and British/locally sourced are the most widely important ethical topics, with almost half of shoppers citing them as extremely important or very important when deciding what to buy.

In general, ethical shopping concerns are more important to older shoppers, particularly those aged 55 and over, as well as female shoppers. There is not, however, a socio-economic bias, with shoppers from social grades C2DE just as interested in ethical shopping as their ABC1 counterparts

Our research also confirms that these ethical issues remain as important to shoppers as they were a year earlier.

Sales of ethical food and drink

In total, sales of ethical food and drink increased by more than 5% to £6.6bn during 2010, according to the Co-operative’s 2011 ‘Ethical Consumerism Report’. Sales were driven particularly by Fairtrade (+36%) and sustainably sourced fish (+16%). There were also increases for Rainforest Alliance (+11%), free range eggs (+8%) and Freedom Food (+4%).

This trend continued through 2011. The Fairtrade Foundation reported 12% growth in the Fairtrade category in 2011, with sales rising to £1.32bn. Fairtrade sales were driven particularly by cocoa (+34%) and sugar (+21%), and were supported by major brands gaining certification.

Meanwhile, according to Defra, in 2011 more than half of Class A eggs (51%) were from higher welfare systems, whether barn, free range or organic, representing a significant increase over a figure of just 14% in 1995.

Conversely, sales of organic food have declined in recent years. The Soil Association reported that total organic food sales were down by 3.7% in 2011, although there were increases in certain categories, notably lamb (+16%), cosmetics (+9%), baby food (+7%) and poultry (+6%).

The future of ethical shopping

The trend towards ethical shopping is likely to remain strong, with shoppers predicting that they will buy more ethical products in the future.

Shoppers aspire to shop more ethically in future
% expect to buy more or less in the next 12 months

Shoppers aspire to shop more ethically in future

Source: IGD ShopperVista, base: all main shoppers, Apr’12

The data suggests that despite the financial pressures on household budgets, shoppers consistently demonstrate a strong resolve not to compromise on their values. So, irrespective of the economic situation, shoppers’ aspirations to buy sustainably sourced and produced food and beverage products will continue to grow. In turn, many food and beverage manufacturers and retailers will continue to respond by making long term ethical commitments in their supply chains.