Still at Odds: Consumer Convenience and Seeking Sustainability

28 February 2020

Cormac Nolan, Consumer Insight Specialist, Bord Bia - The Irish Food Board




Food and drink manufacturers are all too aware of the significant challenges in resolving consumer’s desire for convenience and competitive cost, and their increasing expectation that brands make efforts to be more sustainable.



This is starkly illustrated in a large scale consumer survey conducted globally by FMCG Gurus and published this month. The Impact of Sustainability 2020 report queried 26,000 consumers across 26 countries in every region of the globe.



The picture it paints is one that will be frustratingly familiar to producers of food and drink in Ireland, but also one that can give some reassurance to Irish producers competing in the export market. Many of the demands consumers are making are those that Irish production systems are set up to have strong and cogent responses to already. Irish production is traceable and manufacturers participating in Origin Green can point to third party verified reductions in their energy consumption and other sustainable credentials. Some remain difficult however, most notably the area of packaging and consumer stress around excess in that area.



Consumers expect more from the food and drink manufacturers than their retailer – 53% agree that food and drink manufactures should be doing more to protect the planet while 41% agree that retailers should be doing more.



While consumers surveyed claimed they had made wide ranging changes to their behaviour to be more responsible, the majority still cite recycling and other environmental efforts to be “too time consuming” (51%). 48% said that recycling is difficult and 27% that they lack the information or awareness about how to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.



Green Washing

An emergent point of concern is an absence of trust. 27% of respondents believed that ‘brands and manufactures are not transparent about their environmental initiatives’



The cynical consumer, particularly one who is time pressured, needs to be convinced of a brands efforts in the environmental space. The potential power of a third party verified certification scheme such as Origin Green to overcome that scepticism is large, and this is already ammunition Irish manufacturers can use in conversations with buyers. 



Consumer Lifestyle Trends

The survey confirms two of the five Bord Bia Consumer Lifestyle Trends changing how consumers behave. Fuller Lives speaks to the challenges of managing multiple pressures and the need for convenience, while responsible living reflects the desire to “have a positive impact on my society and the environment, and take pride in that sustainable way of living”.



These two trends are the ones that clash most significantly and frequently in people’s lives.




Consumer’s expectations of brands are only increasing in this area. And it is reasonable to assume the cynical interpretation of some claims will continue to increase. So the challenge for manufacturers is to operate more sustainably and to communicate this clearly and transparently.



Some of that communication has to be about the limits on current abilities, particularly packaging. While consumers want biodegradable packaging, the technology and scale is not yet available – and consumers can respond well to brands that acknowledge the limits of the action they can currently take while always striving to do more.



Transparency and traceability – already a part of many Irish manufacturers processes as a result of Origin Green – can be foregrounded on pack and that conversation continued with consumers on social media channels or other platforms.




Read more;

FMCG GURUS: The Impact of Sustainability – Global 2020 – available at

CLT Responsible Living -

CLT Fuller Lives -